I agree with your article Driving Workplace Diversity that diversity is important in an organisation as it reflects the multiplicity of the Malaysian society as a whole.
However, discrimination still happens especially when a cancer survivor applies for jobs.
I am a cancer survivor. I was diagnosed with lymphoma in 2013. At that time, I was working in Kuala Lumpur (KL) with a leading bank.
I went back to my hometown, Penang, for treatment. It took two years for me to get better. I was still employed by the same bank then (prolonged illness leave).
I must say that the support given me by the bank was tremendous. I was really fortunate to be working for a company that supports its employee both morally and financially.
Now I am cured and the doctor has giving me the green light to return to work.
My doctor advised me to work in Penang as it will be easy for me to undergo my monthly check-ups.
Unfortunately, my bank was unable to grant me a transfer as there were no openings for my job scope in the Penang branch.
If I do go back to KL, I have to apply for a three-day leave every month for check-ups because of logistics. This was unproductive for the bank and me.
Therefore, I started applying for jobs in Penang. It is very frustrating having to explain the two-year gap in my career.
I try not to tell them, but they get to know when asking for my pay slip. They discriminate me even further when they ask me whether I will be able to handle stress.
We cancer survivors are able to handle stress. We have been to hell and back. We have battled cancer and have come out survivors.
We are strong and we think differently. We will add diversity in any company where we are employed. We are independent and I would call all cancer survivors, warriors.
I understand why human resources managers think twice about hiring a cancer survivor. During interviews, I was asked whether the cancer would come back.
These kinds of questions are insensitive and uncalled for. Life doesn’t give you a guarantee. You can also get killed while crossing the road.
In the United States, cancer survivors are legally protected by state and federal laws, such as the Disabilities Act and the Family and Medical Leave Act.
According to these laws, prospective employers cannot ask about a job candidate’s health. I am not sure if we are protected by any similar laws in Malaysia.
So when you award companies with the best diversity, please also consider how many cancer survivors, wheelchair-bound individuals, and other employees with health-related issues are employed by the organisation.
It is not only the colour of your skin or the number of Gen-X and Gen-Z or gender equality, but it is also the number of survivors employed that defines a good employer.
I am still unsuccessful in landing a job. Therefore I am currently doing my MBA in University Sains Malaysia Penang.
I hope that one day I would be able to help my fellow survivors who have difficulties in finding a job after cancer treatment.
I truly hope you will be able to educate both employee and employer on sensitive issues like these. I do hope you will come out with articles highlighting this issue.
(Name withheld by request)
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Published in English daily The Star, Malaysia, 16 May 2015