Employment, Empathy and Encouragement
One of our key objectives at the JBTC is to provide information, support and guidance to clients, family and friends. Another area we help with is employers. As we spend a lot of time with our work colleagues it is also totally acceptable they would be affected too. Emotionally and also from the practical.
Being diagnosed with a brain tumour is a life-changing event and impacts not just the individual with the diagnosis, but also family, friends and work colleagues. Often, the ability to continue working is seriously impaired. Many people have to give up work entirely, change jobs, or reduce their hours or duties. If a partner is acting as a carer, their work may be affected too.
No two brain tumours are the same, that doesn’t mean that some symptoms may appear similar, but no two people will feel the same, or demonstrate all of the same side effects.
Tips for Employers
Understand what a brain tumour diagnosis means
1.Make sure you have someone in the company who has researched, and therefore understands, what this diagnosis means. There is a wealth of information available www.thebraintumourcharity.org is a great starting point. For a larger organisation, this could be someone in your HR team or in a smaller firm this may be the immediate line manager.
Be flexible in how you tailor support…
2. Be prepared to be flexible. Because there are so many types of brain tumour with different treatments and side effects, no one size of support fits all.
3. Speak to your employee to better understand what they are going through and what support you can provide. This is vital as whatever support you do provide needs to be discussed and agreed by both parties. For some people this may be very little; time off to attend appointments. For others this may mean periods in hospital and lengthy recovery time and therefore they may have to work reduced hours, alter the scope of their responsibilities, or be unable to work at all for a period of time. Adopting a flexible approach both following diagnosis, and during and after treatment is crucial.
4. Make sure the support is personalised to the particular individual and work with them to draw up a support plan. You should consult with the employee at all stages during the process. Should a change in role or responsibilities be required then ensure this has been discussed and agreed with the employee. It may be that they never return to their previous role so it is important to look at short, medium and long-term options.
Be aware of your legal responsibilities.
5. Under the Discrimination (Disability) (Jersey) Regulations 2018, disability is defined under the law as a protected characteristic. “A person has the protected characteristic if the person has one or more long-term physical, mental, intellectual or sensory impairments which can adversely affect a person’s ability to engage or participate in any activity in respect of which an act of discrimination is prohibited under this Law.” It is likely that a brain tumour would be classed as a disability under the Law and therefore an employer would need to ensure they comply with their legal requirements.
6. A key requirement is the need to make “reasonable adjustments” to help and support the employee. The challenge is that there is no fixed definition of what a “reasonable adjustment” is – it depends on how practical it is; how much benefit the employee will receive; the impact and possible disruption to your business activities; and cost. What would be considered reasonable will be determined by the side effects the employee is experiencing, whether physical, psychological or cognitive. If in doubt, it is advisable that you seek advice. The following is a non-exhaustive list of what could be considered as “reasonable adjustments”:
- Time off for medical appointments and treatment
- Changing performance targets
- Working from home (e.g. if treatment, such as chemotherapy, means the employee is at greater risk of catching infections)
- Help with transport to work
- A support worker in the workplace
- Special aids and equipment
- A private area to take medications
- An occupational health assessment (if provided) to create a return-to-work plan
- Changing the job description to remove tasks that the employee would find difficult.
- Focussing on strengths (what the employee can do, rather than what they can’t)
7. Under the law, the employee is likely to have protection from discrimination because of their “disability” (e.g. you cannot sack them, make them redundant or pass them over for promotion or specific jobs because of their brain tumour). They would also have protection from disability-related harassment (e.g. another employee making jokes or disparaging remarks about your employee’s symptoms).
8. You are not entitled to access the employee’s medical information. You need to obtain employee consent for you to seek advice from their GP or specialist, and they have the right to see the report before you do. Medical information is one of the highest protected form of data under the Data Protection (Jersey) Law 2018.
9. You must keep the employee’s personal information private and cannot tell colleagues or clients without their permission.
We would also encourage employees to speak to their employer as soon as they feel able to do so. The employer cannot provide the support needed to enable you to continue to work if they are not fully aware of your circumstances.
If you would like more information, as an employee or employer, please do not hesitate to contact us and we can assist.