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Parents of children with cancer report sick out of necessity

Half of the parents of children with cancer in the Netherlands report sick out of necessity for lack of a suitable care leave scheme for them. Many parents and other relatives also need professional support for the combination of cancer and work, but most do not receive it, according to recent research conducted by the NFK (Dutch Federation of Cancer Patient Organizations) and VOKK (Dutch Association of Parents, Children and Cancer) among relatives of cancer patients into the impact of cancer on their work.

The questionnaire was completed by 420 parents of children with cancer and 602 relatives of adult cancer patients. If a child develops cancer, it has major consequences for the parents' work situation. Of them, 96 percent adjust their work situation out of necessity to be able to attend medical treatments and admissions and to support their sick child. 50 percent report sick (temporarily), 25 percent take care leave and 20 percent work fewer hours. 10 percent even (temporarily) stop working.


“It is essential that parents are with their seriously ill child", emphasizes Hanneke van Krevel, director of VOKK. “They must be able to support and accompany their child during the illness and treatment that can last months or even years. The problem is that there is currently no appropriate care leave scheme for working parents with a child with cancer. In addition, 66 percent of parents indicate that combining work and care for their child has (had) financial consequences. For example, they have more care expenses and a (temporary) decrease in income because they need to work fewer hours.


Adjusting the work situation

75 percent of relatives of adult cancer patients adjust their work situation. 20 percent of people report sick, work fewer hours temporarily or take care leave. They are also dependent on their employer or colleagues. “I felt very much like a one-sided deal. I've used up all my overtime hours and all my unpaid leave. They wouldn't let me take care leave," says one of the interviewees.


Professional support

Both relatives of cancer patients (36 percent) and parents of children with cancer (65 percent) are in need of professional support for the combination of cancer and work. This is even more true for parents of children under the age of five than for parents with children who are older. Three out of ten parents have actually had that support. For the relatives of adult patients, this is two out of ten, usually from a company doctor, manager or psychologist.


“We find the high percentage of relatives who report (temporarily) sick more than worrying," says NFK director Arja Broenland. We will enter into discussions with the Ministry of Social Affairs with the aim of creating a better safety net for relatives of cancer patients. One of the ways this can be done is by reorganizing the care leave scheme.”

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