Cancer: Can you be terminated from your employment?

THE diagnosis of cancer is like a capital punishment to the poor.

In the ASEAN Costs in Oncology (ACTION) study by the George Institute for Global Health 2015, 45 per cent of cancer patients were said to suffer from financial calamity, while 11 per cent did not make it past the first year.

The study suggested that the cause of the economic turmoil faced by patients in Malaysia just after a year following diagnosis and treatment were – 46 per cent who had exhausted their personal savings, 39 per cent that could not pay for medication, 35 per cent who could not afford medical consultation fees or tests, 22 per cent unable to pay for rent or mortgage while another 19 per cent had to discontinue treatment.

THESE predicament may be aggravated further when a cancer patient is terminated from employment. National Human Resource Centre (NHRC) consultant who spoke on the condition of anonymity said that an employee cannot be terminated without a justifiable cause, although there is no specific provision in the Employment Act for prolonged illness such as cancer.

“Termination should be according to the company policy and the only cause for this action is misconduct or retrenchment.” “Another reason may be due to poor performance which is closely associated to medical issues.

If which case, an employer may medically board him out with due compensation. Prior to this however, the management upon their discretion, may extend a prolonged illness leave to the employee for a term as stipulated in the company’s policy,” she said.

Meanwhile, i-HR Consulting Sdn Bhd advisory Mohd Azamri Dollah said that it is a prerogative for employees to go for a full medical check-up if it’s decided that they are unfit for work.

“The determining factor of whether the employee is unfit for work lays upon the job  description itself. If it is a desk job and can be carried out by the employee who has cancer, then it is not a problem. However, a doctor’s recommendation is required to certify that the employee is able to carry out his duties.”

“Nevertheless, if the employer decides to lay off the employee, it should be accompanied with compensation,” he said. Mohd Azamri explained that even if a company terminates an employee who has cancer but on different grounds such as downsizing certain departments due to operational cost – the company still needs to compensate the employee.

According to the Employment Act, employees who have served lower than two years are to receive 10 days of wages per year of service, while those who have served two to five years are to be paid 15 days of wages in compensation per year of service.

“Even if the company had a policy whereby a staff with cancer should be laid off, it should be compensated adequately. This is to avoid unfair dismissal as an employee with cancer will find it hard to get employment elsewhere in addition to forking out for medical expenses,” he said. – The HEALTH