Life af­ter the doc­tor’s ver­dict

Hindustan Times (Chandigarh) - Guide - - INSIGHT - Proy­ashi Barua proy­ashi. [email protected] hin­dus­tan­times. com

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.

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