The DYING TO WORK Campaign is calling for an imperative: securing that terminally ill workers are given a protected employment status and therefore protected from being dismissed from work as a result of any terminal condition.

The campaign was initiated by the Trades Union Congress (TUC) in the United Kingdom and launched by Glenis WILLMOTT (S&D MEP, UK), co-chair of the European Parliament’s Health Working Group, leader of the labour party delegation in the European Parliament and former rapporteur on the EU’s clinical trials directive . One of Mrs. Willmott’s constituents, Jacci, faced discriminatory treatment from her employer who tried to dismiss her after being diagnosed. Glenis Willmott believes that protecting terminally ill employees is key, not only for the sake of their dignity but also instrumental for those who cannot afford not to work. In fact, losing their job also means that they lose their ‘death-in service’ benefits, money that is often used to cover funeral costs and provide some sort of financial security to family members.

UK Law and Actions

Under current law, there is some protection for terminally ill workers (Equality Act 2010), but they might still be dismissed if they fail a capability assessment. For this reason, the TUC has drafted a voluntary charter for employers to sign up. This obliges them to support any of their employees who may have a terminal illness. Furthermore, the TUC is currently drafting a negotiating guide for trade union representatives. This will act as a practical guide for representatives when they are negotiating with employers on behalf of employees with a terminal illness.

Pan-European Actions

Glenis Willmott launched the Dying to Work campaign in the European Parliament in June 2015 and brought the topic to the attention of the Trade Union Intergroup in October 2015. At both events, MEPs from different Member States and political groups voiced their support for the campaign. She has also highlighted the plight of terminally ill workers in the European Parliament Employment and Social Affairs Committee. Amendments were submitted raising the plight of employees with a terminal illness in the Health and Safety Strategy Report as well as the report regarding the implementation on the Council Directive 2000/78/EC on the general framework for equal treatment in employment and occupation.

The key aim of Glenis Willmott is to introduce a Directive which will ensure that ‘terminal illness’ becomes a protected feature such as the one included in the Directive 92/85/EEC for pregnant workers. There is legal precedent regarding people with disability that provides legal arguments for the introduction of an explicit obligation in the current EU anti-discrimination legislation (ECJ Case- 11 April 2013 HK Denmark C-335/11 and C 337/11).

ECPC’s involvement

ECPC has joined the campaign and is collecting data from other countries on the conditions that workers with terminal illness are facing. We therefore ask all our members who are interested in advancing this topic at a policy level to provide testimonials, case studies and any related information from their own countries. Any relevant information on this topic should be sent to mihaela.militaru@ecpc.org/

Additional information

This campaign only covers employees with a terminal disease.

DEFINITION: “terminally ill worker” means a worker who has provided their employer with a certificate from their doctor as having an illness or physical condition which can reasonably be expected to result in death in 24 months or less after the date of the certification.

Video of Jacci’s story: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cCf3Ds0ZYpE