Many leukaemia patients face a devastating choice as ‘Freedom Day’ looms: their life or their livelihood?

“Many people living with leukaemia feel they have been forgotten about in the rush to ease COVID-19 restrictions." Here, you can find out what we are doing to help support clinically extremely vulnerable (CEV) leukaemia patients, ensuring they have a voice.

We have launched the #LifeVsLivelihood campaign to urge the Government to provide clearer guidance and support for vulnerable leukaemia patients who will be asked to return to work imminently. 

  • Recent studies have suggested that some leukaemia patients are less protected by the COVID-19 vaccine than those without leukaemia. Many leukaemia patients are also at a higher risk of serious illness and death from COVID-19 than people with other cancers.
  • As nearly all restrictions are due to be lifted in just a week in England, the Government has not released any specific guidance for the most vulnerable when they are asked to return to the workplace. Guidance issued on the 12th of July is insufficient.
  • The charity is also calling on the Government to extend the furlough scheme for those vulnerable employees whose jobs require them to be there in person, often mixing with others e.g. hospitality, teachers, 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.

Polls conducted by Leukaemia Care revealed the following: 

  • 70% of leukaemia patients said their diagnosis has affected their employment. 
  • 55% requested changes to their work environment since their diagnosis.
  • 1 in 5 did not even know they had the right to request reasonable adjustments in the workplace.
  • 50% of leukaemia patients said their employment issues had gotten worse during the pandemic. 
  • 1 in 4 leukaemia patients now have fears of unfair redundancy amidst the pandemic. 

Leukaemia patients have also come forward to share their stories:

“I am fed up with fighting to keep myself safe.”

“My employer has rejected two access to work proposals because they did not want to do the paperwork that was involved once a month.”

“I asked for support due to my health, again I was told I can’t be treated differently from other people in the office as it would look like I have “favourite treatment” within the team.”

“I do not want to be at work as I do not feel safe. I used to feel positive about my work but this is really getting me down.”

“I was made to feel that I was less committed to my work because I have leukaemia (although I’ve never had a day off sick in 4 years!).”

“I can’t put into words really how much strain and stress this puts on me, it’s hard enough functioning on a daily basis without the added pressures of [my] employer not supporting their staff.”

“The added stress of everything made me worry about the future of my job and any absences I may have had would affect their decision if redundancies happened.”

Commenting on the #LifeVsLivelihood campaign, Zack Pemberton-Whiteley, Chief Executive at Leukaemia Care, said “Many people living with leukaemia feel they have been forgotten about in the rush to ease COVID-19 restrictions. We are hearing from people who don’t feel safe returning to the workplace, because they may be less protected by the vaccines. As a consequence many currently face a difficult choice between risking their lives at work or losing their livelihoods. 

We want to support leukaemia patients to be able to work safely, without the fear of losing their jobs. For many this means continuing to work from home. We urge employers to do the right thing, to make these reasonable adjustments, to support their staff. But we also need the Government to urgently issue guidance to enable leukaemia patients to work safely and to extend the furlough scheme for those whose job cannot be safely performed”.

Leukaemia Care’s #LifeVsLivelihood campaign targets not only the Government with its call to actions, but also offers practical support to patients and employers. The charity has therefore created both employee and employer checklists to empower leukaemia patients to understand and speak up for their workplace rights and to equip employers with the knowledge they need to treat all employees with equal respect and dignity. The checklists along with other campaign materials can be found on Leukaemia Care’s website here.

Leukaemia Care has also written to the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Sajid Javid MP, to express concerns more generally about the advice given to clinically extremely vulnerable people following the changes on the 19th of July. The guidance advises that clinically extremely vulnerable people should avoid contact with people, yet does not offer any additional practical support to the vulnerable to enable them to follow the advice.

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.


For further information and advice, you can contact our advocacy team by:


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