#LifeVsLivelihood

To improve the experience of employed leukaemia patients as the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions lift.

At Leukaemia Care, we’re launching the #LifeVsLivelihood campaign to highlight the ongoing challenges that clinically extremely vulnerable leukaemia patients face as restrictions ease and employers ask people to return to work. Many patients have questions about what these changes mean for them and how they can continue to stay safe. Recent studies have suggested that some leukaemia patients may be less protected by the COVID-19 vaccine. As a result, many leukaemia patients feel they have no choice but to continue to shield as restrictions lift. Due to the increased risk of COVID-19 and possible reduced vaccine efficacy, some leukaemia patients require extra protection and consideration while lockdown eases.

For more info on vaccines, go to our blogs here.

However, the current government guidance for the clinically extremely vulnerable (CEV), including leukaemia patients, on returning to work and reasonable adjustments is unclear and insufficient, as is the advice for employers of these patients. For example, current guidance in England is spread across the Government website and the Health and Safety Executive. Similarly, in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, guidance is unclear, especially for employers, and not in one place. Therefore, we have created this campaign to help patients and their employers discuss their safe return to work, but also to ask for better information from the UK Government. See below how you can help us with this campaign.

I am a leukaemia patient with concerns about work. What can I do?

Anyone diagnosed with leukaemia is protected under the Equality Act 2010 and similar legislation in Northern Ireland, allowing you to request reasonable adjustments to your workplace to help you overcome any barriers that your diagnosis creates. In times of COVID-19, this can be used to reduce your risk, as someone who may be at greater risk of severe illness from COVID-19 and whilst we remain unsure about whether the vaccines have been effective.

If you are unsure whether you have responded well to the COVID-19 vaccine, we recommend you have a conversation with your care team to discuss your risk of COVID-19 as the first step.

If you believe you may still be at risk of COVID-19 infection by going/returning to work, you should discuss this with your employer. You can download our checklist to help you understand the steps to take to have this conversation effectively here.

If you would like to make a request for adjustments, you can also use this template letter to do so. Download letter template here.

I am an employer of someone with a leukaemia diagnosis. What can I do to support them?

Anyone diagnosed with leukaemia is protected under the Equality Act 2010 and similar legislation in Northern Ireland, allowing the employee to request reasonable adjustments to your workplace to help you overcome any barriers that your diagnosis creates. In times of COVID-19, this can be used to reduce your risk, as someone who may be at greater risk of severe illness from COVID-19 and whilst we remain unsure about whether the vaccines have worked.

We’re calling upon employers to do a full risk assessment and consider reasonable adjustments and/or the furlough scheme for anyone who is considered still at high risk of severe COVID-19. We’ve created a checklist to help them in this process, so they’re equipped with the information to follow the right procedures and support leukaemia employees in their return to work. 

Employers can download the checklist here.

We also ask that employers remain mindful of the potential for discrimination, direct or indirect when considering employees for redundancy. We appreciate it has been a challenging time for all. Leukaemia patients continue to need our support whilst we find out if vaccination has been successful in this group and/or whilst cases fizzle out in the wider community. For many, it is a choice between life and livelihood. Please do what you can to support any employees affected.

I’m an MP or other decision-maker, how can I support the campaign?

Many leukaemia patients remain vulnerable to COVID-19, due to uncertainty about the efficacy of the vaccine in this group and cases increasing once again. It’s estimated that 1 in 20 people in ICU with COVID are blood cancer patients. Yet the advice for employers offered by all 4 devolved nations about how to support clinically extremely vulnerable (CEV) patients is not sufficient, spread over many pages and offers little practical support.

We are recommending that the government create clearer guidance and dedicate one webpage to employers of the CEV. This should outline those employee rights that are common across all industries and includes examples of COVID-19 specific reasonable adjustments. 

We’re also calling upon the government to extend the furlough scheme for those CEV employees whose jobs make it difficult for reasonable adjustments to be implemented, e.g. hospitality, teaching, carers, factory workers. This support is necessary until more data becomes available and the risk of the pandemic to the vulnerable subsides. Extending furlough until this point will help to ensure these employees are not at the risk of unfair redundancies.

Share this campaign on social media, using the hashtag #LifeVsLivelihood, using the graphics downloadable here. Alternatively, get in touch with our Advocacy team to discuss how you can support us further in this campaign.

How to support our campaign

Whether or not you are personally affected by this issue, we need your help to raise awareness of the challenges facing leukaemia patients who are working at this time.

Support the campaign on social media! Use the hashtag #LifeVsLivelihood on all social media platforms and add to the conversation. Why not share your own experience, or support someone you know to be affected. We have made #LifeVsLivelihood infographics to support the campaign; you can find them here. Download them and share them on social media with the hashtag #LifeVsLivelihood.

We need you to show support for our government recommendations! We’ve created an automated form that sends an email to your MP asking them to consider our recommendations – all you need to do is fill in your name, email address and postcode. It’s that simple! Contact your MP here.

If you have any further questions about our #LifeVsLivelihood campaign then you can contact our Campaigns and Advocacy team. They are available Monday to Friday from 9:00am – 5:30pm. If you would like to speak to them, you can send them an email at campaigns@leukaemiacare.org.uk