09/29/2014 04:15 EDT | Updated 11/28/2014 05:59 EST

Cancer patient who lost job wants government protection for workers

A woman who had to take sick leave from her job while undergoing cancer treatment, only to find her job was gone when she wanted to return, wants government to help people with health problems keep their employment.

Arlene Stratton of Gander quit her job to go on Employment Insurance while being treated for cancer over eight months.

Stratton thought she would be able to return to her restaurant job after her treatment. Instead, the position was not held for her, and now she says she is struggling to support her daughter.

"It's not my fault that I became sick, so I shouldn't be punished for it," she said.

Stratton is getting support from the Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Labour.

Lack of worker protection

Federation president Mary Shortall said this is a common problem among unprotected workers.

According to Shortall, Stratton's employer was within its legal rights, but thinks the Employment Standards Act should be reviewed to deal with cases like this.

"It hasn't been reviewed since the year 2000. Maybe we need to have a look at that with the reality of today's work force and say, you know, how can we beef up this legislation to protect workers like this particular worker," said Shortall.

Shortall noted that workers in Newfoundland and Labrador only receive seven sick days per year, compared to 12 in the Yukon and 12 weeks in Saskatchewan.

"Now they have compassionate care covered under the legislation, which allows a worker who has to look after a sick family member up to eight weeks off and the employer has to give them their job  back when their finished, so maybe that could be extended to include someone who's looking after their own illness," she said.

Stratton, meanwhile, has since found another job and said her cancer is under control.