Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The Workplace is Still Tough for the Sick

IT is only right that the world has moved on so that discrimination against people on the basis of their sex, their sexual orientation, their colour, their creed, their nationality or their physical ability, is becoming more and more rare.
It ‘s not gone, of course.
There are plenty of people who treat women badly, who are homophobic, who are racist, who despise religion of any or all sorts, who hate other nationalities, their neighbours in particular and who would never dream of hiring someone who is in a wheelchair or who is deaf or blind.

I am less than convinced that there is not rampant discrimination against the sick.
By ‘sick’ I mean those with chronic illnesses.
I would include those with epilepsy, asthma, diabetes and suchlike.
I would include those with bi-polar disorder or manic depression as we used to call it.
In fact, I would include anyone with a psychiatric illness.
And I would certainly include those who, like me, have cancer.
There is something in the psyche of many people, which tells them that the chronically ill are not worthy of important roles in the workplace.
They are not to be promoted to too high a level.
While my current employers are decent and considerate, I do have experience of losing a senior position in which case one of the reasons given for demotion was “we want someone who’s here all the time, not someone who is sick.”
I was, at the time, in hospital.
But that’s only a small example.
Those who are lucky enough to be more or less constantly in the full of the health, often don’t realise that being chronically ill doesn’t mean being ill all the time. It doesn’t even mean being ill much of the time if you’re lucky and if you have the right treatment.
But there are many, sadly in positions of authority, who look on the chronically ill in the same sad way they look at women.
You see, women can become pregnant. And pregnancy more often than not (I’m glad to say) leads to the birth of a child.
And of course, childbirth has the inevitable result of maternal leave or, in civilised countries, parental leave.
And that’s costly and annoying for bosses. Damned women. Nerve of them. You’d think they’d be more career conscious and give consideration to not having children, something the parents of those who think like that should have done.
Cancer is often a chronic rather than a terminal illness.
Many people suffering from cancer are well for the vast majority of their working lives.
That’s true of most people who have chronic illnesses.
It’s frustrating when you come up against someone too thick to realise that, though a person has a chronic illness, they have a major contribution to make.
If there is to be discrimination in the workplace, let it be against those bozos.
But may they never suffer from a chronic illness.

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