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Managing cancer in the workplace

Napthens - October 30th 2017

More than 112,000 people of working age are diagnosed with cancer each year. This is in addition to an estimated 700,000 employees currently caring for somebody with cancer in the UK. So what are their rights and how can you help?

What protections are afforded to those with cancer?

Employees with cancer are protected from discrimination under the Equality Act 2010. Discrimination occurs when an employee is treated less favourably than another on the grounds of their disability. Therefore, employers are required to ensure that reasonable adjustments are made to assist them in the workplace. You should also be alert to any potential forms of harassment or victimisation as such acts are also prohibited under the legislation. There are different types of discrimination, whether direct discrimination, indirect disability discrimination and/or discrimination arising from disability and it can affect many different aspects of employment including the recruitment process; terms and conditions of employment; benefits; opportunities for promotion, training and so on.

What support can you offer?

Whilst some employees with cancer may still be able to attend work, you should consider offering assistance and ensure that support is put in place, should it be required. On the other hand, some employees might be unable to attend work, particularly whilst receiving treatment. In such situations, you should consult your sickness absence policy and clear guidance should be provided about the employee’s sick leave entitlements.  As a minimum, after four days of sick leave, all qualifying employees are entitled to be paid Statutory Sick Pay for at least 28 weeks’, although some policies may allow for longer or enhanced payments. During such time you should ensure that you remain in contact with the employee and consider whether it would be appropriate to offer additional support.

What steps should you take to assist an affected employee back into work?

In order to ensure a smooth return to work, you should consider the following:

  1. Implementing a joint return to work plan, looking at how you can ease them back into work. This could be done by offering them a flexible working pattern or by a phased return.
  2. Easing the handover of work, consider whether you can give them a lighter workload or whether spreading out their work would be suitable.
  3. Look at alternative employment, as they might be unable to fulfil the demands of their old role. As such consider offering them an alternative role, this could be on a temporary basis or permanently.

What about carers?

Given the significant number of people currently caring for a person with cancer in the UK, it is likely you will have employees who are in a similar position within your business. It is important that you communicate with them regularly, in order to ensure that they are coping with the demands of their job and establish whether they require any additional support. It is also advisable to ensure that the employee is aware of the businesses policies and procedures, explaining to them their rights as a carer and any options that may be available to them for leave. As a carer their legal rights include: making a request to work flexibly; take reasonable time off work to deal with an emergency affecting the dependant; and protection from discrimination.

If you would like further assistance, then please don’t hesitate to contact the team.