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Many people worry about telling their employer that they have been diagnosed with cancer and need to have treatment. You may worry that your employer won’t support you and that they may be prejudiced or discriminate against you.
Some people worry that their employer will sack them or find an excuse to make them redundant if they say that they have cancer. However, employers shouldn’t do this. Anyone who has or has ever had cancer is protected by the Equality Act 2010| (or the Disability Discrimination Act| if you live in Northern Ireland), which prevents employers discriminating against people with a disability|.
Both acts state that employers are expected to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ to support employees in the workplace. You may be able to suggest adjustments that could help support you.
Although it helps to tell your employer that you have cancer, you don’t have to do so by law. However, if you don’t tell your employer that you have cancer, and the cancer and its treatment affect your ability to do your job, this could cause problems. In extreme cases, it may lead to disciplinary action being taken against you.
Also, if your employer doesn’t know about your cancer and its effects, they are not required by law to make any necessary adjustments for you at work.
To consider any reasonable adjustments, your employer may ask for your permission to write to your doctor or a medical professional to get their advice on what may help. Your employer can’t do this without your permission. You have the right to see any medical report before it’s sent to them, but you’ll need to ask if you want this to happen.
If your employer knows that you have cancer, they can help you by providing support and giving you information about your rights. They can also make sure that you have time off| if you need it, and that you get any sick pay| you’re entitled to.
You can talk directly to your employer, your human resources manager or occupational health adviser, your trade union, or all four.
If carrying on as normal is important to you, tell your employer so that they can support you in continuing with your work. However, if you can’t go on working normally because of the cancer or its treatment, then let your employer know. Arrangements can then be made to alter your work or give you time off if necessary.
Our section Talking about cancer| has useful tips on how to talk to others about your cancer.
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.
Macmillan has created a number of resources to help employees, managers and organisations support people affected by cancer in the workplace.
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© Macmillan Cancer Support 2013
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