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Returning to Work After Illness: Fifth of Cancer Survivors Face Discrimination, Survey Finds

By Solicitor, Employment

One in five cancer survivors face discrimination at work, according to a survey by Macmillan Cancer Support.

Shockingly, the charity reported a 74% increase in the number of calls it has received in the past two years about work-related issues for cancer sufferers.

Macmillan Cancer Support believes one explanation for this jump is that as survival rates improve with advances in treatment for cancer, more people are returning to work workplace and encountering discrimination.

But it could also be down to more people being aware of their legal rights under the Equality Act 2010 which should prevent an employee being discriminated against due to serious illness.

What Are Your Rights

Under the Equality Act 2010, employees have automatic protection against discrimination if they are diagnosed with cancer. This is because cancer is a “deemed disability” qualifying for protection against discrimination.

The protection is wide as demonstrated by the recent decision in Lofty v Hamis (t/a First Cafe) which found that individuals with pre-cancerous cells may also be deemed disabled under the Act. Protection also continues to apply even after the conclusion of successful cancer treatment. It’s important people are aware of the rights and protections this offers them.

What Are my Employer’s Obligations?

If you have cancer, your employer has a duty to consider making reasonable adjustments to help you continue performing your role. For example, by making changes to your working hours or allowing you to take time off to attend medical appointments. To establish the kind of adjustments you require, your employer should discuss options with you and liaise with occupational health or medical professionals where appropriate. Employees should also put forward adjustments they feel they require and would help them successfully work notwithstanding existing or past cancer issues.

While employers should know their obligations, many don’t. It is clear from this survey that many employers still require training to understand how they should act to better support employees dealing with cancer. Employers need to be more proactive in understanding their obligations and making a difference to employees.

Not only do employers have a duty of care to their employees, but enabling employees to reintegrate or remain in the workplace allows employers to retain key talent which ultimately is good for business.

The employment team at Slater and Gordon is independently recognised as the UK's leading employment team for individuals. If you have suffered discrimination at work after being diagnosed with cancer you can contact us for free on: 03301075053 to discuss your options.

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