In my past career as a registered nurse, I regularly witnessed
the looks of shock and fear on the faces of patients who had just
learned of their breast cancer diagnosis. Nothing can ever prepare
you to hear those words from a doctor, yet 1 in 91
Canadian women will experience this moment in their lifetime
– and almost 702 women in Canada will hear those
words on the day you read this post.
Based on the most recent statistics, the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation estimates
that last year 25,000 women and 220 men in Canada received a breast
cancer diagnosis and about 5,000 women and 60 men died from the
disease. It remains the most commonly diagnosed form of cancer for
Fortunately, advances in treatment and better early detection
has brought the five-year survival rate to 88 per cent and the
mortality rate has dropped by 44 per cent since its peak in the
Knowing that the long-term outlook for survivors is better than
ever does not mean that the road ahead will be an easy one. The
physical, mental and emotional toll of the disease can be intense
and the residual effects of treatment can be exhausting.
Women of working age who are undergoing treatment or returning
to work after an absence face unique challenges as they manage the
demands of their jobs with the realities of the disease. Perhaps
these women might struggle to receive adequate time off for their
medical appointments; be overlooked for promotion, face demotion or
even termination if they are unable to work as they had prior to
their illness; or struggle to communicate and work well with
colleagues who are either ignorant or unsympathetic to their
post-cancer abilities and energy levels.
Physical or cognitive limitations due to treatment may make a
return to the same position or a similar one very difficult to
achieve. If a return is not possible in the short- or long-term, a
breast cancer survivor may be entitled to draw upon disability
Unfortunately, unjust denial of these benefits is not uncommon
and it can be especially difficult to imagine having to battle with
an insurance provider so soon after battling such a terrible
disease. Just as breast cancer survivors can draw support in their
journey back to health from family, friends, and other loved ones,
so too should they know that help is available for them to obtain
benefits they have been unfairly denied.
At HSH, we're proud to support initiatives like
The Pink Party to help survivors in their recovery and
hopefully to find a cure and/or prevent others from facing this
Unfortunately, reasonable accommodation for employees in the workplace continues to be the source of significant litigation and even today we continue to see outrageous examples of employers behaving badly.
We are now beginning to see reported cases involving charges and subsequent fines laid against employers for failing to provide information, instruction and supervision to protect a worker from workplace violence.
On October 13, 2016, the Supreme Court of Canada denied leave to appeal an Ontario Court of Appeal decision which ordered an employer to pay a former employee 37 months of salary and benefits following termination.
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