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Disability Discrimination and Cancer

In a recent survey* from Macmillan Cancer Support, 18% of those surveyed suffering from cancer complained of facing discrimination from employers or colleagues on returning to work. This is disturbing when the overwhelming majority (85%) of people diagnosed with cancer say that continuing to work is important to them. For some, it is the sense of normality or the enjoyment of the job, but for many, their bills have not gone away and they simply need the money as much as they ever did.

Whether someone falls within the definition of disability for the purposes of employment law can sometimes be very complex. If you have cancer, it is simple - you are protected against disability discrimination. Cancer (together with HIV infection, multiple sclerosis, blindness and severe disfigurements) is a deemed disability under the Equality Act 2010.

If you have an employee or job applicant with cancer, as an employer you cannot:

  • Discriminate by treating them less favourably than others because of their disability. This is direct discrimination.
  • Discriminate by treating them unfavourably because of something arising as a consequence of their disability without objective justification. This is discrimination arising from disability.
  • Discriminate against them by applying a provision, criterion or practice that disadvantages them without objective justification. This is indirect discrimination.
  • Fail to comply with the duty to make reasonable adjustments when they are placed at a substantial disadvantage.
  • Subject them to harassment related to their disability.
  • Victimise them because they have or intend to make a complaint about disability discrimination.
  • Ask them pre-employment health questions other than for a prescribed reason. 

An understanding of the law and proper training for managers and supervisors is crucial.

For more information on the above issues, please email or call 0113 232 1030.


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