Cancer and employment rights
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.
Carers are also protected from some types of discrimination. We have more information about this.
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.
The Equality Act and the Disability Discrimination Act cover all areas of employment. This includes:
- 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.
There are many ways to check your employment rights for free:
- check your employer’s policies and talk to a human resources (HR) manager
- contact your trade union if you are a member
- contact Citizens Advice
- visit gov.uk if you live in England, Scotland and Wales or nidirect.gov.uk if you live in Northern Ireland
- contact the Equality Advisory Support Service if you live in England, Scotland and Wales or the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland for free, confidential advice
- contact the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas) if you live in England, Scotland or Wales or the Labour Relations Agency if you live in Northern Ireland
- call the Macmillan Support Line on 0808 808 00 00 to speak to our work support team.
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.
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
Chat online anonymously to others who understand what you are going through. Our community is available 24/7 and has dedicated forums where you can get advice and ask our experts.