If you're looking for work

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.

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.

Talking to your colleagues about cancer

Talking about your cancer can be difficult, but speaking to your colleagues can make it easier for them to understand and support you.

If a colleague has cancer

You may feel upset or worried if a colleague has been diagnosed with cancer.

Going back to work

Talking to your employer is an important step in returning to work.

Giving up work after a cancer diagnosis

Deciding to give up work completely can be a difficult choice.

Protection against discrimination

Legislation protects you from being treated unfairly at work because of cancer.