Chronically Ill Sheffield mother striving to end employment prejudices
A Sheffield mother has spoken on the barriers faced by people with chronic illnesses while the business she works for strives for accessible employment for all.
BearHugs is an independent Sheffield business which allows people to send virtual hugs to each other through the medium of personalised gift boxes, while also promoting accessible employment across the country.
Jessica Taylor-Bearman, 31, who joined BearHugs as a customer care assistant 18 months ago, said: “I used to be bed-bound for many years, and there have been many times that I’ve applied for jobs, but because of my condition they weren’t willing to make reasonable adjustments for me.”
She said: “If you go into a room with a chronic illness, the prejudices that exist mean that you’re already at a disadvantage.
“There are so many of us who would love to work, but the opportunities just aren’t there, or the people willing to give you that time.
“To be part of a team where you feel valued for what you can give without making yourself unwell is really incredible.”
Around a quarter of people living in England have a chronic disease, a figure that has been on the rise recently due to the effects of long Covid.
All four BearHugs customer assistants are chronically ill and work remotely, with Ms Taylor-Bearman often undertaking tasks from her bed which has a specialised desk installed on it.
She said: “It’s about employers wanting to make a change.
“There should be reasonable adjustments wherever you work, because then you’ll get the most out of your employees too.
“BearHugs just shows that chronically ill people can do just as much if they are allowed to be flexible in working.”
BearHugs are currently undertaking a report involving a case study on what being chronically ill while having a job has done for people, and looking at this model of work to try and help others do it too.