Supporting employees with cancer

Information on the legislation surrounding cancer and work

Cancer and work - legal obligations

The Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 (external site) places duties on employers to protect the health (including mental health), safety and welfare of their employees.

The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 (as amended) (external site) require a suitable and sufficient risk assessment of health and safety risks at work.

The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations (COSHH) 2002 (external site) require the management of substances in the workplace that have the potential to harm health or cause ill health and require the completion of a COSHH assessment.

The Employment Rights Act 1996 and Employment Act 2008 set out many of the statutory rights that most employees are entitled to when they work, including those on unfair dismissal, reasonable notice before dismissal, time-off for parenting, redundancy and requests for flexible working time.

An important Act when talking about cancer is the Equality Act 2010. Under this Act, people with cancer are automatically classed as disabled and are therefore protected from being treated less favourably than other workers.

As part of their duty of care towards staff, employers are obliged to take reasonable steps to ensure the wellbeing of workers. This may mean making reasonable adjustments to make it easier for people who are classed as disabled to remain in work. The nature of these adjustments depends on the individual, their condition, and the effect it is having on them, but it could include changes to working days or hours, time off for medical appointments, or changes to a person’s job role. The Act gives rights to people who have or have had a disability which makes it difficult for them to carry out day-to-day activities. The disability could be physical, sensory or mental.

You may find employees with a diagnosis of cancer have increased levels of sickness absence or they may need to attend the hospital or their specialist more frequently than those without the health condition. Authorised absence, outwith the normal organisation sickness absence triggers, should be considered as an appropriate adjustment under the Equality Act 2010.