Life after the doctor’s verdict
World over, more than 40% of people diagnosed with terminal illnesses like cancer, chronic renal and heart diseases and hepatitis C have some job or the other. While insurance companies offering mediclaim policies are mushrooming to allay the financial worries concerning treatment, a larger question has not been suitably addressed: What is the general stance (both in terms of attitude and continuity of service) of employers towards these employees?
Says Atish Munshi, an advertising professional who has been undergoing treatment for cancer for the past two years, “There has to be a balance in terms of the perspectives of both the employer and the employee. Extended sick leave is naturally expected from organisations in the case of terminal illness and 95% of organisations do provision it. However, this sick leave cannot stretch endlessly. After three or four months, if the employee is still unfit s/he has to relinquish the job.” After he was diagnosed, Munshi‘s employer allowed him more than six months away from work.
Finally the provisioning of medical leave for terminal illness is a subjective matter and is determined by the relationship of the employee with the organisation, severity and stage of the disease and the number of years in service.
But this practical logic cannot characterise the sentiments of all the millions of terminally-ill patients. “The realisation that the illness could jeopardise their mode of income deflates the morale of patients,” says
Patients of terminal ailments need constant reassurance and empathy
Mallika Vohra, a counsellor who specialises in dealing with such patients and their families. But there is hope after the doctor’s verdict. And this hope is stemming from the policies related to diversity, equal opportunities etc that are diligently being practised by several people-centric organisations. “The best part is that because the concepts of diversity, inclusion and equal opportunities are relatively new, these policies are largely in the process of evolution and hence factor in newer challenges. They mandate a definite set of principles that govern the employment of the disabled people. While as of now there are no pronounced policies for terminally-ill employees, it is not difficult to envision a situation in the near future when there will be certain definite policies,” observes Radhika Wig who works in a consultan- cy in Gurgaon.
Many organisations like IBM have flexible work hours and allow nearly 40% of their employees (depending on the nature of the work) to work from home. “This policy can be easily extended to an employee who is diagnosed with a terminal disease, even if he/she does not fall within the bracket of the 40% whose job profiles require it,” says an IBM spokesperson.