Organ donors should be guaranteed the right to paid holiday so they can recover from operations without losing out at work, according to a Sheffield MP.
Louise Haigh MP today introduced a Bill backed by a cross-party group of MPs to guarantee statutory leave and entitlements for living organ donors.
More than 400 people died last year waiting for a transplant, according to NHS figures.
Almost 6,000 individuals in the UK are waiting for a kidney or liver transplant but in the last financial year fewer than 1,060 living organ donors donated.
Ms Haigh decided to take action when she heard the story of Mark Clements, aged 29, who joined the Anthony Nolan bone marrow donor register as a way of saying thank you to the anonymous donor who saved Mr Clements' father from leukemia.
Donating bone marrow puts a great strain on the body’s immune system and leaves donors drained of strength and at risk of illness.
Mr Clements was asked to donate when he matched with an - anonymous - young child who was very ill.
Mr Clements said: “I am so grateful I had the chance to give something back. You have no idea what it feels like to open a card from a child saying ‘I’m looking forward to going back to school - thank you for saving my life’. I’m actually choking up a little just thinking about it.”
But the company where Mr Clements worked as an accountant at the time were unsympathetic.
Although NHS guidelines advise donors to take a week in bed recovering from the procedure, Mr Clements' employers accused him of 'making himself sick' and refused to give him more than three days paid leave.
There is no current statutory provision guaranteeing a donor’s right to take time off work to donate organs, meaning individuals have to rely on the goodwill of employees, take holiday or are required to take unpaid leave and rush back to work when they may not be fit.
Unable to afford the alternative, Mr Clements returned to work.
Mr Clements told the Star that when he suffered dizziness and blackouts at his desk his senior said: ‘Man up, we've got deadlines'.
Mr Clements said: “I was very much made to feel I was skiving. I did feel very victimised.”
Mr Clements, who has family in Sheffield and grew up in Doncaster, was put in touch with Louise Haigh to see if what he had been through could be changed.
He said: “Louise has been absolutely fantastic in taking this up.”
Ms Haigh’s Bill would, if passed, introduce the right to paid statutory leave which will codify the amount of time an individual is entitled to take off and ensure that the rights, terms and conditions and entitlements of an employee remain the same on their return as it was when they took leave.
Ms Haigh said: “We are already chronically short of donors and we should be breaking down every conceivable barrier put in the way of these potential life savers.”
“Recovery time can often be long for living organ donors and they should be able to concentrate on getting back to normal, not rush back to work because they are unable to afford the time off or fearful that their job may be at risk.”
She added: “My Bill will send a clear signal that if you are prepared to give an organ to save a life, the law will back you up every step of the way.”
Ms Haigh's speech was successful in Parliament today. The Bill will have its second reading on 20 January 2017.