Bill aims to protect jobs from illness

By John Rafferty
Have you ever suffered from a serious illness like cancer, or a stroke, or deep bout of depression? If not, do you know someone who has?
Should those that are seriously ill lose their job because their recovery period is longer than others?
I don’t think so, and I will be introducing a private member’s bill to help the seriously ill keep their jobs during prolonged periods of care and recovery.
Most of us either have suffered from a serious illness of one type or another, or know someone who has. In the case of cancer, repeated treatments of chemotherapy or surgery can take a tremendous physical toll and prevent someone from performing even the most routine day-to-day tasks for a long period of time.
Stroke victims, as well as those who have major heart surgery or organ transplants, face long recovery periods that often require several months of care, rehabilitation, and rest.
We also are learning more about mental illness each day. And as the stigma of this illness is lifted, we’re learning that about 25 percent of Canadians suffer from depression at some point in their lives, that a serious bout of this disease can prevent people from even getting out of bed to go to work, and that effective treatment can take many months before the patient recovers.
These are just a few serious illnesses, but there are many more that can incapacitate any one of us for a long period of time.
Current legislation exists to protect workers suffering from serious illness and ensure that they can keep their job for 12 weeks, but this is too short for the illnesses listed above and many others.
My bill will extend that allowable period of absence—ensuring that a worker cannot be dismissed, suspended, laid off, demoted, or disciplined by an employer if they miss work due to serious illness for a period of up to 52 weeks.
I hope this bill will pass and ensure that people who are seriously ill do not have to rush back to work prematurely just to save their job, and that they are able to get the medical care they require without fearing a loss of livelihood.
I can imagine some saying this period is too long or unfair to employers, but chances are they’ve never been ill or know someone who has, and probably are not owners or managers of a business.
Being struck by serious illness generally is a family-wide tragedy that changes many lives forever. Why would we want to make such a tragedy worse for our friends and neighbours by allowing a loss of income on top of the personal challenges they will face with a serious illness?
This bill, like the current legislation it is improving upon, also is fair to business in that it does not preclude an owner or manager from hiring a temporary replacement for the affected worker or making up for the loss in other ways.
The small business owners I’ve met, and even managers of larger enterprises, care a great deal about their workers and would not want to add to the huge challenges affected workers will face during their recovery anyway.
I believe this bill is fair and will protect seriously-ill workers while ensuring that businesses remain viable. Oddly enough, this bill, if passed, will make a tremendous difference in the lives of many families across our riding and Canada, but is just one paragraph long.
I hope this bill will succeed in becoming a law and prove, once and for all, that effective legislation need not be 700 pages long, and that good things do, indeed, come in small packages.

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