Local view for "http://purl.org/linkedpolitics/eu/plenary/2006-10-24-Speech-2-033"

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"Madam President, ladies and gentlemen, all of those present in this Chamber are aware that breast cancer is a terrible ordeal for the sufferers. We are all aware of what an ordeal it is for their families and for those closest to them. This is a disease that can turn a person’s life upside-down. The treatment is arduous and lengthy, and often stops sufferers from working or leading a normal life. My fellow Commissioner Mr Kyprianou spoke just now on issues of health and prevention in relation to breast cancer. In my short speech, I should like to focus on reintegrating breast cancer patients into working life. Breast cancer severely disrupts people’s lives. Life changes direction and women are often ill-prepared for such a change, although in reality they often cope with the situation better than their relatives, friends, colleagues and employers. The latter often do not know how to behave towards women with breast cancer. There is no universal solution. Each individual situation needs to be treated on its own merits. There is little information or guidance available on how to deal with breast cancer sufferers from a legal, work, health or psychological point of view. The Community should improve the mechanisms for helping breast cancer patients. Experience has shown that it is better for women with breast cancer to carry on going to work, assuming, of course, that their physical and mental condition allows them to. In order to make life better for patients while they are unwell, special working hours and adapted holiday arrangements, for example in tandem with working from home, need to be introduced. This would also help them to reintegrate more easily and more quickly into the working environment. Support for employers and colleagues could play a crucial role during treatment. Psychological help should also be permanently available, and to this end, an educational awareness-raising campaign should be launched, aimed at employers and the workplace in general. As I said before, it is important to create the conditions whereby women with breast cancer can quickly and successfully be reintegrated into the labour market. The specially adapted working conditions that may be needed during treatment should perhaps be extended until some time after treatment, in order to help the patient to reintegrate. Breast cancer patients must not be allowed to suffer discrimination in the work place. The European Directive of November 2000 provides a general framework for equal treatment in employment and prohibits discrimination on the grounds of disability. The question remains whether long-term illness falls under the heading of disability. In the United Kingdom, for example, following lengthy discussions on this issue, the law prohibiting discrimination against the disabled has been updated and now provides for protection against discrimination against cancer sufferers. The European Court of Justice will need to decide whether this interpretation applies to the directive on prohibiting discrimination. EU legislation, specifically Directive 89/391/EEC on the introduction of measures to encourage improvements in the health and safety of workers, also states that employers must adapt the nature of work to the worker's state of health, which implicitly includes those with chronic and long-term illnesses. I welcome the proposal to draw up a charter to protect those with chronic and long-term illnesses in the workplace. I feel, however, that the social partners should develop such a charter in conjunction with the relevant bodies at national level. Apart from legislative instruments, the Commission supports cooperation between the Member States via the open method of coordination in the area of social protection. Investment in health is one of the goals of the new structural funds for 2007-2013, in particular in the convergence regions. The objective is to increase the number of healthy working years and to enable as many people as possible to play an active role in society. This objective relates both to health infrastructure and to the training of health workers, an issue that has been mentioned in this Chamber. The measures in this area may include health support, disease prevention, knowledge sharing and the training of highly qualified workers. Honourable Members, the European social model is based on solidarity with the most vulnerable members of society, towards whom we have a moral responsibility. Breast cancer sufferers are physically and psychologically vulnerable and fragile, as well as actually having to fight against this disease. They need support, they need decent healthcare, they need protection against discrimination, they need to be reintegrated into working life under the best possible conditions. Honourable Members, I think that you can rely on us in this matter."@en1

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