Organ donation

How donating a kidney affected work and finances

Most transplant centres try to arrange the assessment and tests around a donor’s work schedule to minimise disruption to their job. It is sometimes possible to arrange for some of the tests to be done locally if the donor lives a long way from the transplant centre. Several donors talked about taking time off work to have tests. A few had been retired or hadn’t been working at the time. Those who were working full-time also had to think carefully about the amount of time they would need off work to recover and whether to arrange for cover.
The operation and recovery period for living kidney donation varies from two to twelve weeks depending on how the kidney is removed, individual recovery and the type of work a donor will be resuming. Most of the people we talked to said that their employers were understanding and gave them time off work for the surgery and recovery, and allowed them to take it as sick leave. However Clare, a vet, said her employer was very unsupportive and stalled the process because they could not find cover.
How much time off work donors could have depended on several factors. Paul, a GP, went back to work after two weeks, though his first week back was ‘gentler’. He had a demanding job but was also self-employed and had taken the time off as annual leave. Darren worked in a physically demanding job and said he planned to take two or three months off work so he could fully recover before doing heavy lifting again. Maggie said she went back to work too early and, because her teaching job was demanding and stressful, she ended up taking a further seven weeks off.
Who covers the cost of time off work was a subject that several people talked about and some felt quite strongly about, especially those who had donated a kidney to someone outside the family. 

“There is a UK scheme that enables donors to reclaim necessary expenses such as loss of earnings and travel. However, donors should first discuss this with their employer and find out what is available under  their terms of employment around Statutory Sick Pay. Donors should talk to the Living Donor Coordinator about expenses at an early stage of the process if they might need to apply to the scheme as there is some information that they will need to read and an application form to complete. A letter from their employer and evidence of their expenses will also be necessary” NHS Blood and Transplant – Could I be a living kidney donor? June 2015)
Many of the people we interviewed felt strongly that living donors should be covered for loss of earnings while they are recovering from surgery. Some people said their employer had agreed to cover the time off as sick leave. One man, who donated a kidney to a friend in Holland, said his friend covered his costs and he was able to have his surgery at a quiet time at work over the summer. Other people said they’d discussed their expenses with the specialist nurse and were hoping to be reimbursed for the costs they’d incurred as a result of donating a kidney.
Many of the people we spoke with felt that living donation saved the UK National Health Service (NHS) significant amounts of money and that the costs incurred during the process of donating should be covered by the NHS. Those donors on benefits such as job seeker’s allowance need to take advice by contacting their local Citizens Advice Bureau. A few people we interviewed weren’t working at the time, and one man had retired. He hadn’t considered reimbursement because he was comfortable financially but felt, like several other donors, that the NHS should reimburse the costs incurred by living donors.

Last reviewed May 2016.
Last updated May 2016.


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