February 27, 2018 [No.49-2017]
Hiroshi Kitani, Professor
Graduate School of Business Administration
Prefectural University of Hiroshima
Part 3: Supporting treatment as workstyle reform
People who face a range of commitments or constraints while working represent the reality of diverse human resources in Japanese society. Previous articles have explained how we call the situation in which they are active a "work-life balance", and that measures to achieve this balance are termed "workstyle reform". The targets of these reforms to working styles are all workers, including regular employees, non-regular employees, women, senior citizens, young people and foreign nationals. However, in February 2016, the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare (MHLW) published its Guidelines for Supporting Both Medical Treatment and Working Lives in the Workplace, which were aimed at people who need mid- to long-term medical treatment, hospitalization, or leaves of absence. This initiative is unique even on a global level, and so I would like to present its details below.
The Guidelines sum up workplace initiatives that include the roles of related parties, environmental improvements to workplaces, and how to provide support to individual workers. They were created as a reference for creating workplaces that accommodate treatment by putting suitable work-related measures in place to allow workers with illnesses requiring treatment to avoid worsening their illness through working.
2. Presumed targets and readers
There are many people involved in supporting the achievement of a treatment-career balance: the person concerned (and their family), the workplace (superiors, HR managers, business owners, industrial physicians, health staff), medical facilities (attending physicians, nurses, staff), and the community (Industrial Health Centers, etc.). While the main targets are business owners, HR managers, and industrial health staff including industrial physicians, public health nurses and clinical nurses, the Guidelines can also be utilized by people involved with support, such as the worker in question, their family and medical facility personnel.
3. Target illnesses
All illnesses that require repeated and ongoing treatment are covered, including cancer, strokes, heart disease, diabetes, hepatitis and incurable diseases; however, non-chronic, short-term illnesses are not covered. Mental health, which has become a major issue in workplaces recently, is also covered if it requires ongoing treatment.
4. Support for treatment-career balance
The increasingly aging society means that workers are also aging. We are likely to see more and more areas needing support for both medical treatment for workers with illnesses and to allow them to continue their careers. Recent progress in diagnostic techniques and treatment methods have improved survival rates for diseases once considered incurable, changing them to lifetime diseases. However, workers with illnesses or disabilities include cases that lead to them leaving their jobs because their work prevents them from getting appropriate care or due to a lack of understanding by the worker themselves, or a lack of understanding and support from their workplace, regarding their illness.
5. Position and meaning of support for treatment-career balance
If a business decides to hire a worker with an illness, a certain level of accommodation for treatment and work-related measures must be put in place to ensure this work does not worsen the worker's illness. This accommodation is positioned in the measures to ensure worker health. Initiatives by businesses to allow this treatment-career balance without having the worker's illness exacerbated by their job have both the meaning of ensuring workers' health and of being a way to achieve greater personnel retention and productivity improvements. Such initiatives also enable healthy management through allowing employees to remain, providing a sense of security, and increasing their motivation; and serve as a way to meet the organization's corporate social responsibilities and ensure work-life balance for workers.
6. Points to note for supporting a treatment-career balance
Maintenance of worker safety and health
Initiatives by the worker concerned
Applications by the worker concerned
Responses based on the characteristics of treatment-career balance
Accommodations that fit the characteristics of individual cases
Clarification of target persons and response methods
Protecting personal information
Importance of liaising with people relating to allowing this balance
7. Preparing an environment to support balance
(1) Businesses must present their core policies and ensure workers are aware of them.
(2) Using training to increase awareness for providing balance
(3) Clarifying consultation offices, etc.
(4) Developing systems related to providing balance
8. Methods for providing balance
(1) A worker requiring help to achieve treatment-career balance collects the information that is required for their support (name of illness, symptoms, treatment schedule, required accommodations, period the measures will be in place) from their attending physician and submits this to the business. However, if the information from the worker is inadequate, the industrial physician or person in charge of HR may collect the information from the attending physician with the worker's consent.
(2) The business provides the collected information to the industrial physician, and solicits the industrial physician's opinion on the feasibility of continued employment, as well as accommodations for treatment and measures needed for employment.
(3) The business uses the opinions from the attending physician and the industrial physician to determine whether the worker shall remain employed.
(4) If the business judges that the worker can remain employed, the business then studies, decides on, and implements the details, period of implementation, etc. that are required for treatment and employment-related measures.
(5) If the business judges that the worker requires a long-term leave of absence, the business comprehensively considers the opinions of the attending physician and industrial physician, the wishes of the worker concerned, and the opinions of the department where the worker will return to, and then studies, decides on and implements the details, period of implementation, etc. that are required for treatment and for measures related to returning to employment when the business judges that the worker can return to work.
Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.