Looking for a new job when you have or have had cancer
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 means employers should only ask questions about a candidate’s health (including whether the candidate has a disability) during the recruitment process in extremely limited situations (see below).
In Northern Ireland, employers aren’t prevented from asking job applicants about their health, but they are prevented from discriminating against applicants because of their disability.
An employer can ask you for information about your health after they’ve offered you a job. If, on the basis of this information, they then decide to withdraw the job offer, they’ll need to make sure the reason they’re doing so isn’t discriminatory.
It’s still acceptable to ask questions during the recruitment process about a person’s health for the following reasons:
To make sure they’re not discriminating against anyone in their recruitment process.
To conduct positive action (for example, for a company to improve their recruitment of people with disabilities).
To enquire whether reasonable adjustments are needed for the recruitment process.
To establish whether the applicant will be able to carry out a function that’s fundamental to the role.
Disability-related questions mustn’t 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 to 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 this is 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. However, this is entirely your decision. If you don’t get the job because you made the employer aware of your condition, then you may consider bringing a discrimination claim against them.
Many people with cancer don’t consider themselves to be disabled, and if they’re asked in general terms whether they consider themselves disabled they’ll say ‘no’. However, if you’re asked by your employer if you’re disabled, you should say ‘yes’ for the purposes of the Equality Act and the Disability Discrimination Act. This is because everyone with cancer is covered by these acts and the term ‘disabled’ has a specific meaning under the acts.