Businesswoman presenting objectives for new year

Terminal illness: supporting affected employees and fostering a compassionate work environment

There is no doubt that a terminal illness diagnosis will be devastating, and people will react differently to receiving such news. For those in employment, telling their employer about their diagnosis and deciding what they want to do about work can be particularly daunting.

Employers need to recognise that their approach to dealing with employees affected by terminal illness should be tailored to individual circumstances, recognising that attitudes to working may vary considerably. For some employees, finishing work may be forced upon them due to the nature of their illness. For others, it may be a conscious decision to enable time to be spent with friends and family, etc. However, for a number of reasons, many employees decide that they do wish to continue working (with appropriate flexibility/adjustments). Whatever the decision, employers should ensure that they foster a compassionate and inclusive culture so that employees feel able to discuss serious health issues such as terminal illness in confidence and seek the support they need.

To help organisations manage their approach to terminal illness in the workplace, we have created a ‘Terminal Illness’ policy. This formal policy covers some of the key issues which are likely to come up within this topic, including:

  • Handling early conversations
  • Adjustments and flexibility
  • Managing absence compassionately
  • Interaction with other policies (such as sickness absence, flexible working etc.)
  • Provisions for family members/carers of someone with a terminal illness diagnosis
  • Signposting support

For employers wishing to formalise their approach to supporting employees affected by terminal illness, introducing a meaningful policy indicates a strong commitment to employee well-being and diversity, equality and inclusion. The policy should of course be coupled with training for managers to help prepare them for difficult conversations and give them the tools they need to provide a safe, supportive and compassionate work environment for anyone affected by terminal illness.

To get in touch about our Terminal Illness policy, or for further information on this topic, please contact Robert Forsyth.