Working life: what rights for reintegration do patients have?

Published 22 Feb 2019 • Updated 6 Jun 2019 • By Louise Bollecker

We learn about the different rights and difficulties that patients with chronic illnesses experience when attempting to go back to work.
Working life: what rights for reintegration do patients have?

A new study* has provided results on how having cancer can impact someone's career. What can we conclude from this? How can you adapt your work when you have a chronic illness? What are the standards in force from one country to another?

Being forgotten, flexible working hours, the status of disabled workers... all these themes resonate particularly for the chronically ill. Their professional careers are often disrupted by the disease. The study conducted by researchers in January 2019 showed that the probability of being employed at least one quarter of the year is significantly lower in the year following the announcement of cancer than in the year before diagnosis. Until five years after the discovery of the disease, there is an increase in taking sick days and then an increase in inactivity.

The type of cancer influences professional reintegration

The study distinguished occupational trajectories according to the type of cancer the patient has. For women, ovarian cancer has the most negative career consequences, followed by breast cancer. In men, prostate cancer has mild consequences at the time but the effects are felt over the long term. In all cancer patients, lung and bronchial cancers have the greatest impact on working life, unlike thyroid cancer, which has little impact on the employment of the patients concerned.

>> (Re)read Alain's testimonial: "the labour market excludes the chronically ill"

The study concludes that companies have a major role to play and should be encouraged by the state to fight discrimination linked to the disease.

Chronic diseases and working life: what solutions should be implemented?

Cancer is not the only disease that can affect a career. Any illness that has an impact on morale, physical fitness or mental health may justify job accommodations. Do not hesitate to talk to a health professional about it.

>> Join our forum dedicated to rights and administrative procedures to ask your questions

In some countries, such as France, a medical examination is mandatory in the context of employment. The physician is then the patient's main contact if you may require adjustments to your professional environment.

The obligation to employ disabled workers....

Similarly, the status of disabled worker, applied in France and Luxembourg, makes it possible to recognise patients' rights in the professional world. Some countries, mainly in Europe, have introduced the obligation to employ disabled workers. In France, it applies to companies with more than 20 employees up to 6% of the workforce, under penalty of fines. Germany, Italy and Spain have similar policies on access to employment. Germany is also a good example in Europe, since the compulsory employment rate of 5% is almost reached in both the private and public sectors, at 4.5%.

Or the fight against discrimination?

In contrast, in the United Kingdom, the only legal basis is the Equality Act 2010, which protects against all forms of discrimination (age, sex, origin, disability, etc.). Financial assistance called Access-to-Work can also be provided to patients to better equip themselves. In the United States, the American with Disabilities Act advocates an inclusive approach, fighting for equal opportunities. It is also a case-by-case approach, with no particular employment obligation for disabled people.

Do you think that companies should be forced to hire a certain number of disabled workers? What policy would you put in place?
 Have you been discriminated against returning to work after an illness?
Give us your opinion and share your experience to help others lead a fulfilling professional life!

*Thomas Barnay et al, "L'effet des cancers sur la trajectoire professionnelle", Questions d'économie de la santé, n° 238, December 2018. Study based on the Hygie administrative database.


avatar Louise Bollecker

Author: Louise Bollecker, Community Manager France

Community Manager of Carenity in France, Louise is also editor-in-chief of the Health Magazine to provide articles, videos and testimonials that focus on patients' experiences and making their voices heard. With a... >> Learn more


on 26/02/2019

I am not surprised that it is so difficult, employers don't want sick workers and it is unfair for us that are ill...it isn't our decision to be ill!

JosephineO • Community manager
on 28/02/2019

Did anyone find it hard to return to work after being diagnosed with a chronic illness? Can you relate to this article?

@ladysadie‍ @Dinky50‍ @Sammiec86‍ @maryd007‍ @Violetrose‍ @spearshake‍ @Windy1‍ @sophiesmum‍ @francesnana6‍ @Lindyj‍ @Dasser‍ @KellyJayne88‍ @07783584195‍ @sizzler1982x‍ @Sankay‍ @MorganMistwalker‍ @crankycatlady‍ @fibrofogbaby‍ @grannycathy‍ 

sophiesmum • Ambassador
on 28/02/2019

I have never worked as I was diagnosed with anxiety and postnatal depression after I had my daughter back in 2002.

on 28/04/2019


i use to be a nurse I took seriously ill 3 years ago if my husband hadn't took me into hospital when he did I wouldn't be here now, I got right after that and I had two total knee replacements done and I have found it very hard to come to terms with all that I have been through as I can't kneel down I can't do any running I can't walk far I can't do anything with my Grandchildren, I loved my job and I miss the patients as I was a palatine care nurse .

lesmal • Ambassador
on 28/04/2019

I have never been discriminated against by my employer(s) in all the years I was employed. 

My employers knew I had epilepsy from the beginning, and always assisted if I required help or time off to rest or otherwise.

I now offer my services voluntarily, and enjoy being connected with others especially those that have a chronic illness or disability. There is no cure for epilepsy, but I love helping others! 

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