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3 Things to Consider as a Worker with a Long-Term Illness
Long-term illness is any health condition lasting over six months, such as obesity, cancer, heart disease, asthma, chronic pain, and arthritis, to name a few. Here's what can help you if you are working and have a long term illness. Read ON!
Long-term illness is any health condition lasting over six months, such as obesity, cancer, heart disease, asthma, chronic pain, and arthritis, to name a few. The rate at which people are suffering from long-term illnesses is growing with each passing day. This is due to our aging population and poor lifestyle choices. However, thanks to modern-day treatments, people are now living with diseases that would previously cause premature death.
Being diagnosed with a long-term illness can unhinge your carefully-built career trajectory. Even though there are federal laws protecting employees with long-term illnesses, many workplaces are simply not set to accommodate the realities of such employees. Pursuing a career while dealing with progressive, terminal, chronic, or fluctuating health conditions can be challenging. Every long-term illness manifests itself differently, and the realm of the disease is complex and highly individualized. Regardless of your prognosis, here are a few things to consider an employee with a long-term illness:
Talking To Your Employer about Your Illness
Disclosing your diagnosis to your employer is the most difficult step, as it can mean revealing an incredibly vulnerable part of yourself. But it's essential, especially if you have a condition that could interfere with your work performance.
Start the conversation by being honest. Your employer may not be familiar with the realities of your illness, so it is up to you to clarify any uncertainties. How much detail you give is up to you. If your disease begins to affect your work production or quality of work, the last thing you need is for your boss to think you're becoming lazy or don't care about your job. An employer who knows and understands your condition is less likely to make false assumptions about your working abilities.
If your workplace has an HR department or person, you'll have to talk to them as well. They are the experts in matters of FMLA, ADA (American with Disabilities Act), disability benefits, and so on. They can also act as an advocate if a misunderstanding arises and your job is suddenly on the line. Ensure you have documentation about your illness to show as proof now and even later should any issues arise related to it.
Disclosing your illness to your boss and HR is confidential information. You are by no means required to share with co-workers; however, if you have a good working relationship with your colleagues, sharing with them can serve as a great source of both physical and emotional support.
Know Your Rights
Even though many employers do their best to accommodate chronically ill workers, some may not, especially if you're not visibly ill. A basic understanding of your rights will help you become your own best advocate at the workplace.
For starters, job security should be the last thing on your mind when you're dealing with a long-term illness. ADA prevents persons with disabilities from being discriminated against when it comes to employment decisions. This includes hiring, compensation, advancement, firing, and so on. It doesn't, however, immune you from being let go, so long as the reason is not related to the illness.
As an employee with a long-term illness, you have a right to request reasonable accommodations. Some diseases are considered disabilities and are therefore protected by the ADA. The only problem is there's no defined list of disabilities under this act, making it a grey area for many long-term illnesses. For instance, a lupus diagnosis can result in signs of serious respiratory issues that affect breathing or present achy joints and a rash. While both are severe symptoms of the illness, only the former is considered as a disability as it limits primary life functions.
FMLA (Family Medical Leave Act) is another excellent protection that allows you up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave every year to tend to your illness.
Long-term medical care can be very costly. Luckily, there are statewide disability plans that help curb the financial burden. It would also be helpful to speak to your employer or HR about supplemental short and long-term disability plans, even in big companies like The Hartford.
If you think any of your rights have been violated, go to the HR, seek legal counsel, or reach out to the ADA.
Know Your Limits
Being diagnosed with a long-term illness is a reality that you'll have to deal with. It's important to recognize that it will most likely affect your working abilities. When you experience symptoms, acknowledge and deal with them head-on. Failing to listen to your body will only affect your health even more. Many are afraid of losing their jobs, so they end up overdoing it at work. We've already discussed your rights so you can rest assured of your job security.
Get the Latest & Recommended articles in your InboxBe sure to ask for those reasonable accommodations we mentioned earlier. Some of the standard accommodations provided by employers include parking/transportation modifications, flexible working hours, special work equipment, and making existing facilities accessible. You can also ask to be redeployed to a job better suited for your new situation, work from home, or work part-time. If neither is feasible, consider exploring new career possibilities with more favorable working conditions. Keep in mind that an employer doesn't have to provide an accommodation if it imposes significant expense or difficulty. For instance, asking for a car and a driver to drive you to and from work would probably be considered unreasonable.
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Any facts, figures or references stated here are made by the author & don't reflect the endorsement of iU at all times unless otherwise drafted by official staff at iU. This article was first published here on 17th February 2020.