Employment and Cancer

Tuesday, August 4th, 2009 - CV Help, CV Tips, Employment, Job Application, job search, regulation

Employment and Cancer


A few things in the world of employment are pretty clear right now, just by looking at the declining birth rate and the fact that in most western countries, there are more people over 40 than under 40.

Hence, in a few years time, there won’t be enough people aged 18-21 with the right qualifications to fill all the jobs. This will create a skills scramble, and resulting wage boom

And yet, while all of this will predictably happen in the next five years – about the time it would take to get a new employee right now from the street with any set of skills, and not only complete training them, but have them fully productive – employers still seem to positively discriminate against certain job applicants. Why this is still occurring, when there is enough legislation around to easily prosecute them, let alone crush them by shear volume, is surprising if not wholly daft.

The result: some great employee don’t even bother to apply. Hence some great skills get wasted, and dole queue’s lengthen, while the state retrains them to do something less interesting to them, and less productive for the country.

Among those being rejected by employers are cancer survivors. Why? I don’t know, but the conclusion by many is that mentioning the BigC is as good as being redundant for the rest of your life.

Is this true?

Returning to work

I’ll address this from the employers side, as the same questions and process should be applied by any person with a serious or long term health condition who is considering return to work.

Firstly, is the condition stable? It doesn’t need to be cured, but with cancer the words in remission are as effective in the world of employment as any. Yes, you may not be the person you were before the condition – remember, the new employer never met you before, so they don’t have those expectations. But as long as you want to return to work and your condition is stable – predictable employee turning up regular hours from the employers view point – that is what is required

Secondly, have you spoken to your doctor? When you apply for jobs, and your previous medical history comes into the knowledge of the employer, at some point the employer will ask for a medical screening, and that will involve a reference from your doctor. As part of your preparation, ask your doctor for guidance on what they would recommend for you both in terms of types of work, hours, distance from home, and working conditions. For instance, do you need regular breaks during the day or times to attend out patients clinics? Remember, the answer is predictable employment over anything else. Your doctor’s answer is key in your employment prospects, as if they say that you are fit to work in a type of work for so many hours, then no employer can reject you for that reason

Our third issue is disclosure : when do you tell an employer about your medical history? From the view point of employment law, disclosure in a singular job application means that that is now not a reason the employer can reject you form the process. Putting aside disability which is a separate and more legislated situation, being open about your health at the right time is a positive gain for your chances of employment. Many large employers will have a job application form, and legally inside this you will be met with a medical health question. If you are not met with such a form, then the latest you should be open about your medical history is at the start of your first physical job interview.

Once you have disclosed your previous medical history, don’t be surprised to be met with the request for a medical. This is discriminatory if all others prospective employees are not subjected to the same process. But, as you have discussed and agreed with your doctor the types of work and conditions that would suit you, and as you have applied for work inside those guidelines, the medical will provide no grounds for exclusion from the job application process.

One last thought: why not use your experiences as a positive benefit to the employer? There is not one person I have ever met who has faced a severe medical condition, who once we over come their “when will you reject me” thought process, doesn’t have a strong will to live and hence clear thoughts on what they want to do and how. Employers like driven employees. The problem with modern job applicants is they have Any Job Will Do lack of focus: cancer survivors amongst the many have clear and communicable visions and drive so loved by prospective employers.

Good Luck!


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2 Responses to “Employment and Cancer”

  1. Enelory Says:

    Great piece of advice here. It took me 18months to figure out post remission how to sell to employers the positive benefits of engaging with me. I thought they saw the condition, they just wanted a focused and reliable employee.

  2. elesee Says:

    Having suffered the same issue myself, in being rejected from the opportunity of employment because of my previous health issues, I recently gained employment by following the advice of my doctor and applying inside what he said. Great advice – Louise

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