Cancer and the law

If you have cancer the law considers this a disability. This means you cannot be treated less favourably than other people (who do not have cancer) because you have cancer, or for reasons connected to the cancer. That would be discrimination.

There are laws that protect you from being discriminated against at work because of cancer:

  • If you live in England, Scotland or Wales, the Equality Act 2010 protects you.
  • If you live in Northern Ireland, the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 protects you.

These laws do not just protect employees. They also protect people applying for jobs and, in some cases, people who are self-employed.

Carers are also protected from some types of discrimination. We have more information about this.

Is cancer in remission considered a disability?

The legal protection against discrimination does not end when your cancer treatment finishes. If you have been diagnosed with cancer in the past, you will continue to have legal protection against discrimination even when you no longer have cancer, also known as remission. You will also have protection if you move to another employer.

Which areas of employment are covered?

The Equality Act and the Disability Discrimination Act cover all areas of employment. This includes:

  • recruitment
  • terms and conditions of employment, and any benefits
  • opportunities for promotion and training
  • ending your employment.

We have more information about the different types of discrimination that you are protected against.

How to check your rights

There are many ways to check your employment rights for free:

If you think your employer is not respecting your rights, it is a good idea to talk to an employment lawyer or an employment organisation. There may be professional groups in your area that can give you advice about employment issues. You can ask your specialist nurse if there are any groups near you.

If you think you are being discriminated against, we have information about things you can do to help yourself. If you can, resolve any problems informally before starting any formal processes. You can try to do this by talking to your manager about the issues.

Reasonable adjustments

Both the Equality Act and the Disability Discrimination Act say that your employer must make reasonable adjustments. These are changes to the workplace or your job that allow you to keep working or return to work.

Confidentiality

Everyone who lives in the UK has the right to have their personal information kept private. This includes medical information. This right is protected under the Human Rights Act 1998, the Data Protection Act 2018 and the General Data Protection Regulation (EU) 2016.

The Access to Medical Reports Act 1988 also says that your employer must ask you for your permission to get a medical report on your health from your doctor or other health professional. You have the right to:

  • ask for and see the report before it is given to your employer
  • refuse permission for them to get the report.

You may want to talk to your employer about whether you want colleagues and clients to be told about your condition. Your employer should not give out this information without your permission (consent).

Your employer should take care to protect your personal records, including emails and any meeting notes containing details about your condition. This type of personal data should only be used with your permission.

How we can help

Help with work
We have information and an advice service for anyone who has to cope with cancer while they are working or running a business
0808 808 00 00
Monday - Friday, 9am - 5pm
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What's going on near you? Find out about support groups, where to get information and how to get involved with Macmillan where you live.