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Volunteer Advocate
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How to be a good employer to someone with CF

Finding a great employer or boss can be difficult for anyone. Add in the special circumstances around managing a career as well as a chronic illness? It can seem overwhelming. But it can be done! Our community shared stories from their best employers with us:

  • “My boss is the absolute best. He is very understanding and caring. I was hospitalized in 2015. I didn’t have enough vacation or sick days to cover my time off so he prepaid some vacation days for me from my upcoming year so I didn’t have to go without.” – Jess Best
  • “I have been employed by the same organization since shortly after receiving a double lung transplant in 2003 and am very fortunate that my employer provides me with accommodations of time off for doctor appointments, hospitalizations and the like. It is very important that you are open and honest with your employer as to what your medical needs are (regarding time off, not your personal medical information). Employers need to understand the unique needs that that people with Cystic Fibrosis require. We are healthy much of the time, but when we are down and out we need time off to recover without having to worry about if we will have a job to go back to. We can help the employer understand out needs by providing them with the resources to understand CF and how it affects us (the Cystic Fibrosis Canada website had many resources). New technologies allow many individuals to work from home or remote offices. Other companies will allow you space to do your treatments in private on your breaks. Don’t be afraid to advocate for yourself if you feel that this may be an option.” – Brenda Chambers-Ivey
  • “A great employer, for someone who has CF, is one who is willing to listen and learn and hopefully understand. For this to be the relationship it needs to have a level of disclosure and building trust. Honesty is how you build this. Be forthright with your condition, appointments and more lengthy illnesses. An employer of merit, person for that matter, will listen. Take the opportunity to help your employer become educated about cystic fibrosis to deepen their understanding of potential issues that may arise. I offer that being proactive and honest will ultimately lead to better understanding and even empathy when times are tough. I was not upfront with my health with very many people during my career especially during the beginning. I didn’t feel there was a strong need at the onset. I kept that part of my life private for a very long time. When things arose that needed more attention I would seek the confidence of my teaching partners or principals (I was a teacher) to help alleviate circumstances that were out of my control. An example of this, though small one, is the fact that chalk dust greatly irritated my respiratory tract. I was honest and provided a potential solution and a few days later I had dry-erase boards. Simple, but largely beneficial for you, solutions are sometimes readily available.” – Alex McCombes
  • “Employment is important for so many more reasons than simply having an income and for me, has a huge impact on my quality of life. Following my return to work after a maternity leave, I began to have a significant amount of pulmonary exacerbations which led to me needing to take time off work time and time again to be treated. This pattern kept escalating and ultimately led to me needing to take nearly a year off of work. Once my lungs had eventually stabilized enough to return to work on a modified basis, my employer and coworkers demonstrated an overwhelming amount of support and understanding. I have time off no questions asked for medical appointments, I have coworkers that step up for my caseload if I have unplanned time off, and I have a manager that expresses on a regular basis how thankful they are that I was able to return to work and how they are happy to continue to accommodate my needs indefinitely.” – Megan Parker
  • “A great employer for someone with CF has to be open-minded and be understanding with their employee. Open-minded about several absences planned or not, because we never know what the next day will bring living with CF. Be understanding so your employee can do their treatments at the office if necessary, can go to the washroom as many times as needed and accept the fact that there can be a lot of coughing around!” – Yannick Poirier

Have insights you would also like to share? To be quoted in our blog please contact Terra at tgillespie@cysticfibrosis.ca

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