If you're looking for work

Looking for a new job after cancer treatment can be a positive sign of recovery. You may decide to return to the kind of work you did before or to have a complete change. Some people look for a less stressful job or one they would enjoy more. Others may decide to try something they have always wanted to do.

If you’re looking for a new job, you may wonder if you have to tell an employer you have or have had cancer. The Equality Act 2010 means employers should only ask questions about your health in limited situations during the recruitment process (see below).

In Northern Ireland, employers are allowed to ask job applicants about their health. But under the DDA, they cannot discriminate against you because of your disability.

An employer can ask you for information about your health after they have offered you a job. If they then decide to withdraw the job offer, this must be for reasons that are non-discriminatory.

An employer can only ask questions about your health before they offer you a job in certain circumstances. This could be to:

  • make sure they are not discriminating against anyone in their recruitment process
  • make sure they recruit people from a range of different groups, such as people with disabilities – this is called positive action
  • check if you need any reasonable adjustments, for example, having your interview in a ground floor room
  • find out if you will be able to do something that’s an essential part of the job.

They also have to think about any reasonable adjustments they could make to allow you to do the job.

Questions related to disability must not be used to discriminate against a disabled person. A possible employer is only allowed to ask questions about your health or disability for the reasons listed above, if necessary.

It’s important not to mislead a possible employer. Giving false or incomplete information that is found out at a later stage could put you in a difficult position.

If you’re pressed for an answer about your health, it may be best to be open about the cancer. But this is your decision. If you don’t get the job as a result of this, you may be able to bring a discrimination claim against them.

You may not consider yourself to be disabled. But if an employer asks if you are disabled, you should say ‘yes’ for the purposes of the Equality Act and the DDA. Everyone with cancer is covered by these Acts and cancer is termed as a disability.

Preparing for an interview

Before an interview, rehearse how to answer any questions about your health. If you are asked about gaps in your work history you can explain you were dealing with some health issues. Be clear you are now ready and keen to get back to work. Emphasise the skills and strengths you have to do the job rather than talk about your illness.

There are different organisations that can help people with a disability to find work. You can find more information at gov.uk (for England, Scotland and Wales) and at nidirect.gov.uk (for Northern Ireland).

Access to Work can also provide someone to help you at a job interview. It can also help people who are about to start a job.

Back to The impact cancer may have on work

Taking time off work

If cancer or its treatment prevent you from working, you may qualify for benefits that can provide some financial help.