Why it Matters

Over one in four people report loss of employment income as a result of a cancer diagnosis, and self-employed cancer patients are especially vulnerable. Cancer treatment can lead to the loss of employment due to a lack of willingness or policies to accommodate cancer patients’ and survivors’ needs, such as flexible work arrangements. For some, continuing to work can provide a familiar routine and bring a sense of normalcy during very uncertain and often distressing times. There are also several benefits tied to employment that many patients don’t want to lose by leaving their jobs.

The self-employed are especially vulnerable if the social security system is unresponsive to their lost ability to carry out work and earn an income. Employment discrimination faced by cancer patients continues into survivorship and rehabilitation. To avoid overburdening already strained public budgets, it is therefore essential that governments establish legal protections for cancer patients and cancer survivors as well as social security arrangements that ensure employees and the self-employed are able to maintain their work and financial security.

“I was actually astounded about what HR asked. It was all about capability, capability, capability – no concern for me as their employee and no apparent care that I was dying”

What ECPC adds

One of the major priorities for ECPC is to make sure that all people affected by cancer have the flexibility to continue or return to work if they wish. This can enable people to support their families and contribute to society, before, during and after treatment. ECPC engages with the European Parliament and has jointly launched the MEP group ‘Dying to Work’ focused on protecting the employment rights of patients with advanced and terminal cancers.

ECPC has co-authored a chapter on Survivorship in the Joint Action on Cancer Control (CanCon) guide, calling for survivorship & rehabilitation planning to be a core element of national cancer plans, and including recommendations for legal frameworks to reintegrate cancer survivors. Stemming from these recommendations, ECPC and the European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO) has also developed a Survivorship Guide in collaboration with the International Psycho-Oncology Society (IPOS) with supporting guidelines on returning to work. ECPC is examining the existing legal frameworks and social protections afforded to cancer patients, carers and survivors through the Legal Network for Cancer Patients (LNCP).

In 2019, the Work-Life Balance Directive was a monumental achievement for carers in Europe; it included ECPC recommendations and provided legal provisions for flexible working arrangements, leave from work and legal recognition for carers in all EU Member States.