Portsmouth council signs charter protecting terminally ill staff members

PORTSMOUTH City Council has pledged that terminally ill staff members will not be dismissed from their jobs, after signing the ‘Dying to Work’ charter from the TUC.

Employment committee members at Portsmouth City Council signed up to the charter last week, which condemns the dismissal of any workers with a terminal illness on the grounds of their condition.

Council leader Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson said: ‘I think this is entirely sensible and the right thing to do but the question goes to how do you define terminal illness because if somebody's diagnosed with something there may be many years of healthy life that they have but they are diagnosed that they will die at some point.

‘There are some people that would take the view that their illnesses will lead to death at some point and therefore might define themselves as terminal.'

Cllr Donna Jones added: 'It's about the individuals choice and making sure they are not discriminated against and giving them the choice to come back if they want to.'

John Bell, the council's director of HR, was in favour of the pledge.

He said: 'The charter is really about ensuring employers give a commitment to treat employees suffering a terminal illness with all due respect and consideration, so it's a bit of a no-brainer really.

'From our perspective though all of the things within the charter we have got reasonably well covered.'

But he did warn that some of the charter's technicalities might not always be appropriate.

He added: 'There is an implication that you would never dismiss an employee with a terminal illness but there are some circumstances where it's in the employees interest to be dismissed for example on the grounds of ill health, and we wouldn't want to be in a position where you disadvantage the employee.

'But the term "dismissal" does also refer to redundancy so it's a fairly broad term.'