If you're looking for work

If you’re looking for new work or a new job, you may wonder whether you have to tell new clients or employers that you have or have had cancer. In England, Scotland and Wales, the Equality Act 2010 means organisations should only ask questions about a candidate’s health (including whether the candidate has a disability) during the application or 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 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 the reason they are doing so isn’t discriminatory.

It’s still acceptable to ask questions about a person’s health during the application process for the following reasons:

  • To make sure they are not discriminating against anyone in their application process.
  • To conduct positive action (for example, for a company to improve their recruitment of people with disabilities).
  • To ask whether reasonable adjustments are needed for the application process.
  • To know whether the applicant will be able to do tasks that are important to the work.

Disability-related questions must not be used to discriminate against a disabled person. A potential client or employer is only allowed to ask questions about health or disability if they are necessary for the reasons listed above.

However, it’s important that you don’t mislead a potential client or employer. If you give false or incomplete information and this is found out at a later stage, it could put you in a difficult position.

If you are pressed for an answer about your health during the application or recruitment process, you may find it best to tell potential clients or employers about your cancer. However, this is entirely your decision. If you don’t get the work or job because you made the potential client or employer aware of your condition, then you may be able to bring a discrimination claim against them.

Many people with cancer don’t consider themselves to be disabled. If they are asked in general terms whether they consider themselves disabled they will say ‘no’. However, if your client or employer asks if you are disabled, you should say ‘yes’ for the purposes of the Equality Act and the Disability Discrimination Act (in Northern Ireland). This is because everyone with cancer is covered by these Acts and the term ‘disabled’ has a specific meaning under them.

Taking time off work

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