Navigating workspaces in the context of long term ill health – what do older workers with cancer deserve from the labour market?

J Remnant

    Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


    In the ageing workforces of the Global North increasing numbers of older workers are experiencing long term ill health. These workers are compelled to navigate new identities, changed bodies and, potentially, altered perceptions of what ‘work’ is and how they are able to perform paid work. Simultaneously, they are subject to capricious decision making in individual workplaces and the labour market more widely.
    This paper draws on qualitative data from interviews conducted with workers aged 50 and over diagnosed with cancer, employers (line managers, human resources staff and occupational health staff), healthcare professionals and staff from a cancer support charity in the UK. It explores how older workers experiencing cancer can feature in the obscuring of boundaries between work (designed for ‘healthy’ bodies) and non-work spaces relating to their (continued) ill health.
    Employers framed decisions about the support, or lack of, provided for their employees with cancer around subjective notions of deservingness. At a local level, disciplinary power was still exercised in spatial and temporal terms to compel ill or disabled workers to relinquish sick role identities, irrespective of need, and resume working identities, thus contributing to wider narratives of how ill health can get caught up in labour relations. Employers defaulted to subjective assumptions about what constitutes work, even in the context of long term ill health, that have long term and largely negative implications for ageing workforces, and ageing workers at both an individual and structural level.
    Original languageEnglish
    Publication statusPublished - 25 Jul 2018
    EventGlobal Conference on Economic Geography - University of Cologne, Cologne, Germany
    Duration: 25 Jul 201727 Jul 2018
    Conference number: 5


    ConferenceGlobal Conference on Economic Geography
    Internet address


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