Cancer in the Workplace – World Cancer Day

Cancer diagnosis raises many questions, one of which being how it will affect your work life in both the short, and long term. The effect the diagnosis will have on your day to day routine depends on a variety of factors, such as:

– type of cancer
– stage of cancer and size of the area affected
– the treatment needed and side effects
– your finances
– the practical support that is available to you

You may find that you require some time off for appointments and tests, as well as to cope with your feelings and be able to process the news that you have received.

How and When to Make Decisions About Work

When looking at how your work life may need to change, your financial situation and how treatment is going to affect you are important factors to consider. You may want to wait to make a decision until you have had your first treatment, as everyone responds differently. Many people find it helpful to ask their doctor or specialist about the potential side effects to the treatment. When having this conversation, it is worth letting them know what your job entails so that they can highlight areas that may become difficult for you as your treatment progresses. This can enable you to have a productive conversation with your employer about your future needs.
Macmillan have financial guides who can discuss your options with you on their phoneline 0800 808 0000.
Whether or not to take time off work can also depend on other factors such as the type of cancer and treatment needed, and how demanding your current work routine is. It is important to keep in mind that the decision that you make is personal to you, and there is no defined right or wrong way to approach it.

Your Rights at Work

In the UK, cancer is considered a disability by law and therefore you cannot be treated differently to colleagues who don’t have cancer for reasons connected to having cancer. This would be discrimination. There are laws in place that protect you from discrimination because of cancer. In England, Scotland and Wales this law is called the Equality Act 2010. For employees in Northern Ireland, the law protecting them is called the Disability Discrimination Act 1995.
If you are self-employed, you may not have any legal protection against discrimination unless you hold a contract (with a client or supplier for example).

Sick Pay

There are two types of sick pay available to employees in the UK; statutory sick pay (SSP) and occupational or company sick pay. Most workers are automatically entitled to statutory sick pay as standard, however, the availability of occupational sick pay varies from company to company. Occupational sick pay is when the company you work for tops up statutory sick pay to an agreed amount. You would only be entitled to this if it is in your contract, or the company specifically offers it to you. If you require any assistance with claiming sick pay, then Macmillan have a team that can offer information on 0800 808 0000. Alternatively, you can contact the HMRC’s employee enquiry line on 0300 200 3212 or the HMRC’s statutory payment dispute team on 03000 560 630.

Telling Your Employer That You Have Cancer

There is no legal requirement for UK employees to inform their employer that they have been diagnosed with cancer. It is, however, advisable that employees have this conversation so that their employer can support them by making reasonable adjustments to their working day, such as lowering workload, or allowing time off for appointments.
Whilst informing your employer and colleagues can be nerve wracking, it is usually a beneficial thing to do, as it extends your support network in a time that many find to be both physically and mentally demanding.
If your employer knows that you have cancer, they may also be able to point you in the direction of any support systems they currently have in place such as private medical insurance, or an employee assistance programme.