New CIPD guidance – terminal illness

Posted on February 19th, 2024

New guidance for people professionals has been provided by the CIPD on supporting and managing employees with a terminal illness. Many employees need or want to carry on working with their diagnosis. The guide provides practical strategies on creating an inclusive and supportive culture, developing a framework to support employees, managing absence and leave and promoting good people management. The guide includes those who are looking after a family member or friend who has received a diagnosis.

Definition of terminal illness

The NHS defines a terminal illness as a ‘health condition you’ll most likely die from’. Marie Curie defines terminal illness as ‘an illness or condition which cannot be cured and is likely to lead to someone’s death’.

Training and support

It is important that employees do not feel pressured into discussing their health situation. Schools should try and create a compassionate culture where people feel safe and comfortable to talk and seek support as needed. Line managers should be trained in being able to provide employees with internal and external sources of support, including being able to manage sensitive discussions. Employee assistance programmes and counselling services should be signposted where available.


Existing policies should be considered and adapted to include information around terminal illness. Policies should include details on absence management, mental health and bereavement support, and internal and external sources of support.

Workplace adjustments

Adjustments should be considered, such as flexible working arrangements, temporarily reducing hours or working from home where possible. An individual may need to have time off for multiple medical appointments.

Occupational health

Specialist advice should be sought from occupational health (OH) to determine an individual’s fitness to work and to carry out a risk assessment with regards to their role. OH will also be able to advise on medical redeployment or ill health retirement, if the individual is unable to continue in their current role.

A link to the guidance from the CIPD can be found at Terminal illness: Guidance for people professionals | CIPD.

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