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If you’re looking for a new job, you may wonder whether you have to tell prospective employers that you have or have had cancer.
In England, Scotland and Wales, the Equality Act 2010| protects disabled people from discrimination in the workplace. The Disability Discrimination Act| protects disabled people in Northern Ireland.
Under the Equality Act, employers can no longer ask questions about a candidate’s health during the recruitment process.
This includes asking whether or not a candidate has a disability. However, an employer can ask you for information about your medical circumstances after they have offered you a job. If, on the basis of this information, they then decide to withdraw the job offer, they will need to make sure that the reason they are doing so isn’t discriminatory.
It’s still acceptable to ask questions about a person’s health for the following reasons:
Disability-related questions must not be used to discriminate against a disabled person. An employer is only allowed to ask questions about health or disability if they are, or may be, relevant to the person’s ability carry out particular functions of the job.
However, it’s important that you don’t mislead a potential employer. If you give false or incomplete information and it’s found out at a later stage, this could put you in a difficult position. If you’re pressed for an answer about your health during the recruitment process, you may find it best to tell potential employers about your cancer. It’s likely that they are pressing you for an answer because they have concerns and are unlikely to consider your application further if you don’t answer the question. In this case, if you don’t get the job, the fact that they raised and pressed this issue would help you win a discrimination claim.
Many people with cancer don’t consider themselves to be disabled and if asked in general terms whether they consider themselves disabled will say ‘no’. However, if you’re asked by your employer if you are disabled, you should say ‘yes’ for the purposes of the Equality Act. This is because everyone with cancer is covered by the act and the term disabled has a specific meaning under that act.
If you’re asked how much sick leave you have taken in the past, it’s best to give an honest answer, but you don’t have to say it was due to the cancer, unless you are asked directly.
Content last reviewed: 1 May 2011
Next planned review: 2013
For answers, support or just a chat, call the Macmillan Support Line free (Monday to Friday, 9am-8pm)
If you have any questions about cancer, need support or just want someone to talk to, ask Macmillan.
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© Macmillan Cancer Support 2013
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