Coronavirus, work and cancer
What are my rights at work during the pandemic? Hello, I'm Abby and Welcome to our coronavirus series of talking cancer a podcast remote Millen and Boots where I talked to experts to get the answers to the questions about Molina's hearing the most off today. We've got Liz Egan joining us again. And you might remember this from series one. She's McMillan's work in cancer expert and we'll help the answer some of the questions coming through to McMillan support line questions about like what your rights are at work. If you're living with cancer during coronavirus your employer needs to think, you know, creatively and you can think as an employee creatively about what sort of changes could be made to ask you to stay at work. So what to expect after the job retention scheme ends will employers they should talk to staff about plans to end for a low as early as possible and they need to encourage staff to raise any concerns. They have we'll also hear some top tips from Richard get in touch with the manager speak to him about how you think you can do your role in a slightly different way where McMillan and We're talking cancel. Lee's welcome back. It's so lovely to see you again as any other episodes we've recorded I'm going to time stamp this we're recording on the 9th of October 2020 and all the information we talked about is correct. As of today Now ladies we've spoken before about your rights at work if you're diagnosed with cancer and for anyone who would like to hear more about this, it's just it's really brilliant. I would really recommend going back to series one and listening to our work and cancer episode Soul is what's changed apart from everything for people living with cancer. Lung coronavirus is in the picture. Well, yes, absolutely. Everything has changed Emma as we know anybody who has a weakened immune system is at risk of being more seriously ill if they get coronavirus juice and some people with cancer may be at a higher risk of coronavirus as result. And so when you have cancer and you're also coping with with that and coping with work that can be Really difficult and can be even more worrying four people. So yes, so people's lives have changed very significantly because of the coronavirus. It's a super stressful time is near and it must be it must be really nice to people who were at one time told to Shield or that they were more vulnerable because they were having treatment and then to have to go back to work if their employees, you know, say well home phone for business now do people have to go back. I mean our people are obliged to go back to work if they don't feel safe to do so or do they have choices to keep working from home. Well, so I suppose the first thing to say is that the government affected its guidance on shielding in August of this year, which means shielding has now been paused so that means in practice you can go to work and if you cannot work from home as long as there's business is what they call covert safe now and it's important to note that this guidance is advisory. So what I would suggest, you know, the first step really is you should just first of all have a discussion wage Employer and agree your plan for returning to work. Now where you work is a question mark you know, so as I've said with the previous series, you know under the equality act which applies in England Scotland and Wales and the disability Discrimination Act which applies in Northern Ireland. Your employer has a legal obligation to make what we call reasonable adjustments to help you assemble with cancer to stay home work and that could be a variety of different things including helping you to work from home. So I suppose what to say to people if people are not feeling safe have that discussion with the employer employer particular with your line manager as your first point of contact and discuss the situation discuss what they're doing in the business what measures they're taking to make the workplace code would safe and if you're still not fitting that that's a safe environment for you, then I'd suggest, you know, you talk to your employer about alternative working Arrangements if that's possible. This is all in an Ideal World with a reasonable employer wage. And a job that you can drive to and get out of the car and get you know and get straight into the office. What about for those people who are contacting that Millions support line because they're they're genuinely worried about returning home after furlough. They might not be in such an accommodating place of work or a practically easy place of work to get to having to use public transport, for example, so what page first of all is actually really try to understand the risk and my first suggestion would be if you're speak to your clinical team. Now if somebody is going thru cancer treatment and and hopefully they'll be able to talk to their Consultants or their nurse specialist if they have access to one and the clinical team should be able to advise you on your health risk based on your condition and you are treatments and everybody's going to be different and this is something that's important to understand just because you have cancer doesn't necessarily mean that you're all automatically at higher risk. It depends on your type of cancer where you are in your tree log. Journey so it's important really first of all, I think to you know, find out the right information. So you understand the health risk for you. If you don't have access to your consultant or a nurse specialist also, you could find your g p and thought you to be about your condition and what you know things you need to be concerned about because again, not everybody will be in the same position. So it's really important to try and for yourself find out what the risks are for you then I would suggest that the next step then would be to go and talk to your workplace. Now. Your first point of contact is always your line manager there there the person that you know are responsible for you. And so you should talk to them about, you know, the information you get from your your clinicians your GP about the risks that you face and then talk to them in detail about you know, what measures they're taking in order to protect you as a worker in that business now, they have a duty and an obligation to provide, you know a safe environment for you as an employee. And so they need to take that very month. Seriously now, you know, there are also other people that you could talk to in the business as well now depends very much on the size of the business and the type of the business but there will be some businesses that would have health and safety officers that you can speak to they'll be others where you have access to what we call Occupational Health which are you know health services that are attached to a business and you could ask for a referral to your Occupational Health practitioner and they should be able to then advise you and the headline manager about what sort of adjustments would need to take place in order to help you to get back into the workplace. So there are some steps that you can take I'm not saying that everything I say here is going to absolutely help every single person out there with their own scenario, but I'm hopeful that it will help people to know what steps to take in order to be able to take control of the situation for themselves so that they understand the risks and what they can do as an employee to support themselves. I guess that you know birth. Taking back control thing is is is comes back again and again and again when we talk about cancer diagnosis and and arming yourself, I guess with the facts as well. That was there's really interesting thing that you said about, you know, making sure that you are in, you know in possession of your risk level and so it's not kind of something that's a bit amorphous for your employee. It's actually you know, here we are. This is it and it makes life a lot easier. If you go as informed as you possibly can to that conversation, it seems yeah, absolutely, you know, the more you know about what you need to protect your health the better position you'll be in to be able to have a conversation with your employer and hopefully your employer will be reasonable and we'll try and support you every you know, every worker has a value and and nobody wants to you know lose people unnecessarily and I'm sure there are lots of lots of efforts that are being made by employers. You mentioned reasonable adjustments. Can you just sort of pick that apart a little bit about what else that might look like a part-time job? Social distancing in an office space and hand sanitizer everywhere. What else might you be able to have a conversation about? Yeah. Well again just to State again. There's the equality act in in that applies in England Scotland Wales and disability Discrimination Act in Northern Ireland and those pieces of legislation say that your employer must make reasonable adjustments when would work place or work practices puts you at a substantial disadvantage because you have cancer and now and that is compared to other colleagues who do not have cancer. So what this means practices that your employer needs to think, you know creatively and you can think as an employee creatively about what sort of changes could be made to allow you to stay at work. Now the context of coronavirus these can be you know, flexible working arrangements. So for example, you know, let's think about if you were traveling to a job, but you didn't want to travel at rush hour because there will be more people. On and increases your risk then a flexible working arrangement might mean travelling later in the morning or coming back late earlier in the evening or later in the evening. Whatever works for you in order to be able to walk to do your job. There's also very good scheme. They're out there called access to work. It's a government scheme and they can pay for certain types of adjustments and it's called government jobs. Best kept secret in many ways because it's a it's a scheme there that the employer and and use an employee can look into to see if it can cover things like travel you might be able to wage claim for maybe first class train travel for example, or pay for taxis to and from work. If you're feeling that that will protect you and give you more security and that is a reasonable adjustment to suck you to stay in your employment changing work patterns shift patterns providing access to things like software and equipment from home so that you'd be able to do your job from home giving you the song. The computer is everything else that you might need in order to be able or even Wi-Fi access to Wi-Fi. So I suppose the important thing is to remember that anything could be considered an adjustment anything that allows you to keep a job could be considered but it must be reasonable what's reasonable for one employer might not be reasonable for another employer. It kind of depends on you know, how big is your business? You know, the finances the sort of adjustment that you're actually asking for so it's it's it's very like it's very specific to that kind of situation that you're in. So again, you know your relationship as an employee if you have cash with your line manager is so important but knowing your rights I think gives you again the confidence to know what you can approach and what you could talk to your employer about and that's hugely important choice. Absolutely, I guess as well the reality of coronavirus and the pandemic is that not everybody will be having as positive and experience in the workplace. We would hope and if people do end up having money worries, they are there other places that they can turn to what should they be doing initially now McMillan has a range of really great services that can support people with cancer. We have a wonderful team of financial guides and they can explain lots of options available and things that need to think about and things that you need to do so they can cover things like your budgeting and you're planning mortgages what to do with mortgages. Maybe you need to take a mortgage break for a while. They can support you about what song versation so you need to have with your building Society or your bank. They provide you information on your pension. For example, if you want to take early retirement Insurance options issues around Financial products is overdrafts. And also if you have debt and how you would manage your death in the unfortunate outcome that you lose your job. We have a team of fantastic welfare advisors who offer home Ice on benefits and other types of support that you might be able to Avail on such as you know council tax breaks as well. And then we've a team a small team of energy advisers who can talk to you about you know, how did you pay your gas or electricity or water bills, you know, and they're really really great team as well to to call and all of these services are available on the Mac Miller and support line, which is a free confidential find that anybody can call. I think there is some tangible Rising tension as well about the the job retention scheme finishing the end of October at people might be terribly worried about a thousand C's at this time. Oh, absolutely. So well the job retention scheme as as you said or the further scheme it's as it's known ends on the 31st of October 2020 now to end for a low employers should give stuff notice in writing if they're going to end the first game and there's no minimum notice. For furlough but employers they should talk to staff about The plant stand for as early as possible and they need to encourage staff to raise any concerns. They have about or problems around returning to work. So that's that's hugely important. Is there anything replacing it that's planned? Yes. So there's a new scheme called the job support scheme. Now, this is a is a scheme. It's designed to protect what they call viable wage jobs in businesses. There are businesses who are facing a lower demand over the winter months because of covet and it's there to help keep their employees attached to the workforce. Now the scheme is on the 1st of November and it runs for six months so over the winter. So what happens in that scenario is that the company will continue to pay the employee for the time worked but the cost of the arrows not worked. So there's not that they're not working. They will be split three ways between the employer between the government and the employee so the government will wage. Up to I think it's about a third but to a certain cap and the employee would obviously pay a bit too through wage and reduction but the whole point is trying to enable the employee to keep their job. Now the scheme isn't as generous as the previous job pretentious game, but you know your employer may be may try to take advantage of that, you know, if they're facing difficult because of covert over the the next six months. It's a really really difficult time isn't it? And I think in you know where so much is in certain and there is so much with worry and concern on top of a cancer diagnosis having such clear information from you lose is an absolute godsend and from that MacMillan support line and all the wealth of resource that's there so often use it Questions about cancer boots and McMillan are by your side from the moment. You're diagnosed through your treatment and beyond our boots McMillan information pharmacists are on hand with Specialists support from helping you make sense of your diagnosis to advice about living with cancer. You can find them in your local boots Pharmacy or online via video appointment visit boots. For more information. 2018 I was diagnosed with kidney cancer at the time speaking to my boss was very very wary as to to what would happen and especially as I'd only been employed for a months point. My boss was very very helpful. Kept me on the payroll and supported me through my operation and six-week rehab before getting back to work. We then arranged for me to be able to walk home and I got in touch with MacMillan at that point and and was pointed towards a grant which enabled me to set up the desk where I'm sat up now during the pandemic wage and obviously this all came in really really helpful because I had to then work from home and the company had taken stock of where they were and was looking to make cutbacks and and my role and as general manager was identified one of those been at risk and I end up going on quite a downward spiral and struggled mentally and my wife spoke to my GP my wife spoke to in a million and we got me the song. But I needed I've I've found something to focus on a passion that I have where I think I can make my own business and maybe that was the Porsche that I needed to be able to do that. The difficult elements wage is the fear of finding another job and they're saying well once every month, I have a telephone appointments at this time or possibly spend a long time off say coming up still had the hospital visit in between every so many millions a great source for knowledge whether it be Legal Financial and and being able to maybe been an intermediary in between you and your manager page being able to to work out how things can work and maybe see what the future holds look for support. Some fantastic tips there from Richard. Now, there's of course the wider impact of the pandemic might mean that Carriage we you know, we got to remember to speak about carers as well or loved ones are facing an impossible decision between going to work and protecting the health of those in their household. I can't imagine the stress behind that kind of decision off what rights do carrots have. Yes. Yes. So there is a real, you know issue here in terms of carers trying to juggle caring for their loved ones and try to keep their jobs, whether they're working full-time or part-time that's a real challenge for them and they may be required to self isolate. For example, in order to protect the person that they're carrying for. So carriers do have some rights of work and they're important rights to remember as well so that they include the right to request for flexible working or secondly to take time off in case of emergency now flexible working could include working from home. It could include for example, khong Just working hours where you work fewer days, you know, you can press your hours. Let's say into three or four days and you work over four days. You could do some job sharing potentially. That's an option to be considered off or you could consider working part time on the temporary basis. So in order to support your loved ones who your particular period of time but also carries are also entitled level legal right to take reasonable time to look after someone in an emergency and that involves a person that they care for and this includes coronavirus situations. And then they're also laws out there that I also protect carers to the Quality education that I mentioned earlier also protects carers from being discriminated at work because of their connection to a disabled person. So if they're being put in a situation, whereby, you know, they're let's say not being, you know, prioritized for redundancy or something because they're care of their caring responsibilities than that. That's something that they would need to look into but obviously if they have any concerns cares of any concerns in relation to Thursday, We do have a fantastic work support service on our bill and support line where we've got a team of advisors who help people who are being diagnosed with cancer. But also those who are caring for someone with cancer with some guidance about their rights at work and and what they might do in that situation and then carries UK have a wonderful website as well which provides lots of information and support for carers. So I would suggest that they would go back out there to Liz as always absolutely brilliant to speak to you. Thank you so much. You're very welcome. Thank you, For more information on the topics Liz and I have talked about in this episode head to our website McMillan. I'm talking cancer for resources advice and support. It's also a way you can find out more about donating to McMillan in our next episode. We've got Rosie Loftus McMillan's chief medical officer and Mark boots Chief pharmacist back to talk about what practical support is out there at the time when we're being told to reduce our physical contact with others subscribe. If you'd like to hear that and every new episode it's ready. And if you enjoy the series, please give us a racing or a review it helps others to find the podcast more easily. I remember be talking cancer is a MacMillan cancer support podcast off.