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How can the EU #makeworkwork for young people with chronic conditions?

Employment for young people with chronic conditions was the topic of a “Brain, Mind and Pain” meeting last 21 February at the European Parliament, where young patients and policy makers came together to share recommendations and find solutions to this pressing issue.

Young people with chronic conditions often face obstacles and discrimination when looking for a job, and this together with their lack of professional experience put them in a difficult situation when accessing the labour market. That said, this shouldn’t be the case, and young patients don’t give up on claiming their rights.

“We want to work, and we are able to do so”

The event highlight was the testimony of two young men – one with multiple sclerosis and the other with arthritis – who shared their stories of personal triumphs and achievements throughout their diseases, but also the barriers they found and (still find) to have a proper job. Both agreed on their ability and their willingness to get back to work, and said that the only thing they need is some help, a push.

We don’t want to live on benefits all our life. We want to work, to produce, to contribute to the system; but to do so we need politicians and employers to believe in our skills and invest on us,” said one of them.

What can the EU do?

During the panel discussion, other young patient representatives expressed their ideas on how the EU could contribute to make the change. Among them, there was Yolita Pavlova, EPF Youth Group representative, who talked about the importance of adapting the work environment and the timetable to meet the needs of patients, and highlighted the great potential of new technologies to ease the inclusion of young patients at the workplace.

Overall, participants and speakers also agreed on the need of educating the employers and ended the discussion with positive vibes as politicians attending the meeting showed their commitment to take action and follow up on the topic.

Our action

At EPF, we have been quite active in the area of tackling discrimination that patients can face in the workplace and on the employment market as a result of their health status. Following EPF’s position statement on "Equal treatment for patients in education and employment", in 2017 we set up a Task Force on discrimination in the workplace and on the employment market.

The aim of the task force was to develop a set of materials to promote better inclusion of patients with chronic and long-term conditions in the workplace. Those included a collection of patient organisation initiatives on the topic, some recommendations targeting policy makers on how they can promote better inclusion of patients in the workplace, and a digital leaflet for employers on the inclusion of patient with chronic diseases in the workplace and how to foster inclusive work places.

You can find all these documents here.