Cathy on work and cancer

Cathy sits at a table using a laptop.
Cathy sits at a table using a laptop.

After Cathy was diagnosed with bowel cancer, she began to experience workplace discrimination. Through Macmillan, Cathy learned about her rights at work. 

Cathy's story

Unfortunately, my employer at the time wasn't understanding or supportive. I was made to work long hours, given impossible deadlines and an unfair contract. I walked out of that role and had a breakdown. I was signed off by my GP with workplace stress.

Macmillan supported me throughout. They really, really helped make a difference. They gave me advice on returning to work and my rights. I was also sent the Macmillan work and cancer toolkit to take to my employer.

Because of the information from Macmillan, I took my employer to court and managed to win a case for discrimination. Without the information about my rights, I wouldn't have won my court case. It’s one positive to come out of everything. 

Recovering from surgery and returning to work proved extremely difficult, but Macmillan supported me throughout. Nobody with cancer should have to fight their employers at the same time – the cancer’s tough enough by itself.

Close-up of Cathy looking down.

Watch: all about Cathy's experiences

Watch: all about Cathy's experiences

Comment from Macmillan

If you are struggling at work, then speaking to your employer about the support and possible reasonable adjustments that might help you could be a first step. If your employer doesn’t act on this, please seek further advice. It is better to try to resolve issues before they become tribunal cases, as this can become a costly and emotionally draining experience. 

Visit our page on rights at work for more information. Other sources of employment include: Citizens Advice Bureau, ACAS, the Equality Advisory and Support Service or your trade union (if you are a member). You can also contact the Macmillan Support Line free on 0808 808 0000, lines are open 9am – 8pm, Monday to Friday.

Unfortunately not all employers understand the legal obligations placed on them by the Equality Act. Under the Act cancer is legally defined as a disability. This means that employers have a duty to make reasonable adjustments which can include measures such as altering workloads, tasks, hours of work, however there is no fixed definition of what is considered 'reasonable'. Your employer should take the time to review your needs, and assess what reasonable adjustments could be made to best support you. For more information please download our guide on reasonable adjustments. To raise awareness of this, Macmillan has developed a range of expert training, consultancy and resources, to help employers support employees affected by cancer. Find out more here.