Work & Family
There will be difficult decisions to make regarding work when dealing with cancer. Most people depend on their jobs for income and health insurance. Whether or not you can continue to work through or after treatment will depend on the severity of your cancer. The extent of your required treatments and the recovery from treatments will also impact these decisions. Most people at some point need to inform their employer about their condition to access their medical leave and other potential benefits. Many large employers also have a long-term disability policy which can cover employees if short-term benefits are not enough.
The Family and Medical Leave Act offers employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to deal with a medical illness or to assist in the care of a family member’s medical illness. This can usually be accessed all at once, or split up into shorter time periods to accommodate various treatments. Your human resources department can help coordinate the paperwork required between your doctor’s office and your employer.
The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) developed a means for employees to continue receiving their health coverage even after employment ends. It often requires someone to pay the entire cost of their premiums that were previously paid by their employer. This also typically has a limited time period. While the premiums may be high, it is usually far cheaper to pay these continued premiums than paying for even a few chemotherapy treatments. For more information on accessing COBRA coverage, contact your employer or your state’s insurance commissioner.
The American’s With Disabilities Act is intended to prevent workplace discrimination because of an employee’s disability including disabilities arising from a medical illness. An employer is required to make reasonable accommodations for such disabilities. However, an employee must still be able to perform their essential job functions. Further, reasonable accommodations cannot cause an undue hardship for an employer. For more information about the American’s With Disabilities Act, go here www.ada.gov.
Many of us draw a good deal of our identity from our work. If you are unable to return to work after dealing with cancer, it can be a difficult adjustment. This can be yet another loss to be grieved. However, our jobs are not the sum-total of who we are. Our relationships with friends and family are far more important and longer lasting than anything that we do for a paycheck.