7 October 2010
Employers, unaware of their legal responsibilities towards people diagnosed with cancer, are failing to make simple changes in the workplace that would enable them to stay in work, or return after treatment, according to Macmillan Cancer Support.
New research released by the charity found more than half of UK line managers (53 per cent) are unaware cancer is covered under the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA)i, which was superseded by the Equality Act (EA) this month (1 October). This means many people are unnecessarily losing out on the information and support needed to help them stay in work.
Employers are responsible for making sure people diagnosed with cancer are not discriminated against in the workplace. However, just under half of people with cancer (47 per cent) who were working when they were diagnosed say their employer did not discuss sick pay entitlement, flexible working conditions, or workplace adjustments with them when they informed their employer they had cancer.
Macmillan has launched its Working through cancer campaign to raise awareness of cancer patients’ rights and employers’ responsibilities in the workplace.
Ciarán Devane, Chief Executive at Macmillan Cancer Support, said:
‘There are many people with cancer who want to work. They have the skills and experience to benefit their employer and working is, of course, good for them too. It makes no sense to stop them from working when simple changes to their working hours or environment is all that’s needed. As the country struggles to pay off its debts – is it not better to help people stay in work? Over 100,000 people of working age are diagnosed with cancer each year - employers can no longer afford to ignore this issue.’
Employees with cancer also do not know what their rights are and so may not request the help to which they are entitled – less than 40 per cent of people with cancer know that cancer is covered by the DDAii.
Alan, 59, from Lancashire was diagnosed with leukaemia in 2008. He said:
‘When I returned to work after treatment no one even asked if I was capable of doing the same as before I’d cancer. It was just expected that I’d do the same hours. It all caught up with me and I started to suffer extreme fatigue and went off sick again. When I felt I was being threatened with losing my job if I couldn’t do a full week, I realised it was time to find out if I had any rights as I didn’t know, and neither did my employer.’
Macmillan’s guide to cancer and the Equality Act for employers is available from www.macmillan.org.uk/work or by calling freephone 0808 808 00 00. Macmillan’s Making it work report and help for employees with cancer can also be downloaded from the website.
***CASE STUDIES AVAILABLE***
For further information, please contact:
Rebecca Openshaw, Macmillan Cancer Support
Tel: 020 7840 4699
Notes to Editors:
109,000 people of working age are diagnosed with cancer each year in the UK according to Cancer Research UK. Cancer incidence by age - UK statistics. This estimate is for 15-64 year olds in 2007.
Over 700,000 people of working age are living with a cancer diagnosis according to Maddams J, et al. Cancer prevalence in the United Kingdom: estimates for 2008. British Journal of Cancer. 2009. 101: 541-547 and Cancer prevalence in the UK, 2008. This estimate is for 18-64 year olds in 2008.
Some people want to work during or after cancer to regain a sense of normality in their lives, others are forced to go back due to financial pressures. People with cancer may experience side-effects of treatment such as fatigue or loss of concentration, the emotional impact of a diagnosis including depression, or practical issues such as the need to take time off for appointments.
About the research
i YouGov online survey of 2,281 UK line managers. Fieldwork was undertaken between 26 July and 9 August 2010. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are regionally representative of all UK adults (aged 18+).
ii YouGov online survey of 1,740 UK adults living with cancer. Fieldwork took place between 26 July-9 August 2010. Survey results are unweighted.
Additional stats from the YouGov research:
More than 4 in 10 people who are working when diagnosed have to make changes to their working lives after cancer, with almost half of those changing jobs or leaving workii.
Over half of line managers (56 per cent) think the main barrier to support being offered to employees in their workplace is a lack of awareness of the needs people with cancer havei.
Almost three-quarters of line managers (73 per cent) would find it helpful to receive information or updates about how to deal with cancer in the workplacei.
The Equality Act in relation to cancer:
Under the Equality Act, it is unlawful for employers to discriminate against disabled people because of their disability, in all aspects of employment, unless this can be justified. When a person is diagnosed with cancer, they are automatically classified as disabled for the purposes of the Equality Act, right from the point of diagnosis. Like the DDA, the Equality Act requires employers to make reasonable adjustments for employees with a disability. Examples of the sort of adjustments an employer should consider include allocating some work to another employee, making adjustments to work buildings, being flexible about hours, and providing training or retraining for someone who can no longer do their job. It also includes important new provisions to prevent discrimination arising from disability, indirect discrimination, and discrimination against carers. It also restricts medical questions being asked during the recruitment process.
The DDA is one of the Acts which will be brought together with other equalities legislation under the Equality Act in October 2010.The main provisions of the Equality Act will come into affect in October 2010 with others to follow in 2011 and 2012.
About Macmillan Cancer Support:
Macmillan Cancer Support improves the lives of people affected by cancer, providing practical, medical, emotional and financial support.