How It’s Helped

Karen’s Story

Karen, who has spent a lot of a life as a stay-at-home parent, had just finished training for her dream job as a firefighter when she was diagnosed.

“This job meant everything to me. It was so hard to get on the training course, and I put so much work into it.”

“Just when I finally passed and achieved my dream, it was all snatched away,” she added.

Before the diagnosis, Karen was assigned to Retford Fire Station, and hopes to go back to work there if the treatment works. Earlier this month Nottinghamshire Fire and Rescue Service signed up to the Dying to Work Voluntary Charter.

Karen Land with the firefighters from Retford Fire Station
Her partner Kevin Brett, 55, is a firefighter at Newark Fire Station.

The TUC Dying to work Campaign is Pressing for additional employment protection for terminally ill workers who need greater protection from heartless employers who utilise a loophole in the law to dismiss the dying due to their illness. Every person battling terminal conditions deserves the choice of how to spend their final months.

The voluntary charter means that employees working for companies who have signed up to the charter can no longer be forced out of work if diagnosed with a terminal illness. This should be the case for all employees diagnosed with a terminal illness and that is why it is paramount that the law is changed. The TUC and sister organisations who are supporting this call for a change in the law will not rest until the change is made.

Tracy Crump, the service’s head of people and organisational development, said: “Our people are our Service, and their health and wellbeing is massively important to us, so I’m really pleased that we have been able to sign this charter to set in stone our commitment to ensuring that any employee with a terminal illness has much needed security, stability and peace of mind.”

Jacci Woodcock started the campaign after realising the present law had this loop hole where unscrupulous employers can behave dishonourably.

Jacci says “I totally understand how Karen must be feeling as I too was incredibly fit & healthy when I was told I had two months to live if I didn’t have treatment. I too loved my job, the stimulation, the normality & the challenges. In a way it was my identity, my focus & interaction with my colleagues & customers. It actually never occurred to me that I would not receive the emotional and practical support from my employer, surely that is just a basic human response?

Unfortunately it soon became clear that this was not the case for me. I knew then that I had no choice, but to take up the challenge to correct this. I had to be incredibly strong & stand up to being victimised, pressurised, put under enormous stress & anxiety.

I vow that I will not stop campaigning until the law is changed and all employees have the rights they should already have and be able to make their own choices about whether to continue to work or not. I don’t want any other employee to endure what I went through. Karen has a fantastic employer who values & supports her. I hope many, many more Companies will be signing up to the Dying to Work campaign to give a positive, supportive message to their workers that they are hugely valued.”

If it had not been for Jacci, the 600,000 employees covered by the charter to date would not have the freedom to make their own personal choice. Whilst this is an amazing accomplishment, Jacci and her supporters are determined to ensure that there are no loopholes and that all employees have the right to choose whether they wish to continue working or not. Regardless of that choice, they should be able to expect help and support from their employer. Unfortunately the experience of many workers is that their employer is either unsympathetic or puts up barriers to them continuing in work.