AGM Item 12: Dying for work

Our Ref: HSR/1/11
Head Office Circular: NP/184/19
8th October 2019
To: The Secretary

Dear Colleague,


The following resolution was carried at the AGM 2019:

Many workers get a serious illness at some time in their working lives. They may require time off, often many months, to get treatment or recover. There is good guidance that has been produced by the TUC and others to deal with cases of long-term illness or return to work for those who are disabled as a result of an illness or injury.

However, sometimes there is no effective treatment. In these cases, the worker may face a time of huge emotional stress, fear and uncertainty. As a Trade Union we try to ensure that when that happens, we try to remove any additional stress and worry.

A terminal illness is a disease that cannot be cured or adequately treated and there is a reasonable expectation that the patient will die within a relatively short period of time. Usually, but not always, they are progressive diseases such as cancer or advanced heart disease.

UK Social Security legislation defines a terminal illness as: "a progressive disease where death as a consequence of that disease can reasonably be expected within 6 months", however many patients can have a terminal illness and survive much longer than 6 months.

Being told that you are to die as a result of a disease for which there is no cure or effective treatment and that you only have months, or at best a year or so to live is a traumatic event and everyone will react differently.

Sometimes the nature of the illness is such that the person is unlikely to be able to work again. In other cases, a person may decide that they do not want to work anymore and would rather spend their remaining time with their family and friends, getting their affairs in order, or simply doing what they want. However, a lot of workers with a terminal diagnosis decide that they want to continue working as long as they can, either because they need the financial security or because they find that their work can be a helpful distraction from their illness.

Whichever choice a person makes, they should be able to expect help and support from their employer. Unfortunately, the experience of many workers is that their employer is either unsympathetic or puts up barriers to them continuing in work.

If a worker with a terminal illness loses their job, they lose their income. They can also lose any death in service payments they have earned through a life-time of work but are only payable to those that die while still in employment. This conference calls upon the National Executive Committee to embark upon a campaign to secure from all employers to sign up to the TUC charter which encourages internal protocols that support such workers and affords them some dignity and protection during such circumstances.

This charter should set out an agreed way in which our members will be supported, protected and guided throughout their employment, following a terminal diagnosis. The following should form the basis for the charter:

• Employers should recognise that terminal illness requires support and understanding and not additional and avoidable stress and worry.

• Terminally ill workers should be secure in the knowledge that the employer will support them following their diagnosis and the employer should recognise that, safe and reasonable work can help maintain dignity, offer a valuable distraction and can be therapeutic.

• The employer will provide employees with the security of work, peace of mind and the right to choose the best course of action for themselves and their families which helps them through this challenging period with dignity and without undue financial loss.

• The employer should support the TUC's Dying to Work campaign so that all employees battling terminal illness have adequate employment protection and have their death in service benefits protected for the loved ones they leave behind. The National Executive Council are instructed accordingly.

At their meeting of 26th September 2019, the National Executive Committee noted the following report of their Health and Safety Sub-committee:

This matter is already union policy, we instruct the General Secretary to merge these two files. A further report to be placed back in front of this National Executive Committee.

Branches and Regional Councils to be informed.

I am acting in accordance with these instructions. Please make the contents of this circular available to all appropriate members.

Yours sincerely

Mick Cash
General Secretary