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Terminal illness

Receiving a terminal diagnosis can be the most difficult news someone will ever hear. Many people in this situation will be in employment. And yet few employers have developed comprehensive support for employees with a terminal illness. According to a recent survey by CIPD, only a third (33%) of UK organisations have specific provisions such as a policy, guidance, line manager training or awareness-raising.

As HR professionals, we have a responsibility to tackle this taboo and foster a compassionate culture that supports people with a terminal diagnosis. With effective practical support and advice, they can continue to make a valuable contribution at work, safely and productively.

The CIPD has published a guide on how to create a supportive culture and people management framework for employees with a terminal diagnosis.

The guide provides practical strategies on how to:

Create an inclusive and supportive culture

 Develop a framework to support employees

 Manage absence and leave with compassion and flexibility

 Promote good people management

 Provide wider support for colleagues

The legal position of terminally ill employees mainly depends upon the written and verbal agreement between employer and employee, including any special variations agreed upon after the terminal diagnosis. There is little specific terminal illness law, although a Terminal Illness (Support and Rights) Bill was introduced into Parliament in 2022. If enacted, it will introduce a new protected period, making it harder to dismiss those with a terminal illness.  Although the enactment of this bill is not imminent it is something to start considering now.

The guide emphasises the importance of creating an inclusive and supportive culture. It is essential to break down the stigma around terminal illness and foster an environment where employees feel comfortable discussing their diagnosis. Employers can play a crucial role in creating a supportive culture by providing specific policy provisions, line manager guidance and education, as well as access to sources of expert health and wellbeing support. This will enable HR to collaborate with health providers, for example occupational health (OH) services or EAP partners, to develop a policy that is informed by specialist input and ensures an integrated approach to policy and practice.

The guide also provides practical strategies on how to develop a framework to support employees. This includes managing absence and leave with compassion and flexibility, promoting good people management, and providing wider support for colleagues. The guide recommends that employers should consider offering flexible working arrangements, such as part-time work, job sharing, or remote working, to help employees manage their condition and maintain their work-life balance.

Contact us on [email protected] or 0333 888 1360 to learn more about how we can help you create a compassionate culture that supports people with a terminal diagnosis that enables them to continue to make a valuable contribution at work.

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