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World Cancer Day – Impacts in the Workplace

Every 4th February is World Cancer Day – a time when we can take a moment to consider the impact of this serious illness on people around the world. The theme of this year’s World Cancer Day is “I Am and I Will”. The focus is on the individual and on making a commitment to act to reduce the global impact of cancer.

 “I Am” leads to thoughts of all those employees affected by cancer.  If an employee suffers from cancer then they are disabled: under the Equality Act 2010, cancer is a deemed disability from the point of diagnosis. The employee will be protected from various types of disability discrimination.

However, protection from disability discrimination also extends to those associated with a person with cancer. For example, an employee whose wife has been diagnosed with cancer will benefit from protection under the equality legislation due to his association with a disabled person. It would be discriminatory to treat that employee less favourably because he has taken time off work to care for his ill spouse.

I Will” urges us take action. For employers, the commitment to act where an employee has been diagnosed with cancer is recognised under the law in the duty to make reasonable adjustments. Where an employee is disabled, an employer has a duty to make reasonable adjustments to avoid the employee being put at a substantial disadvantage in the workplace when compared with a non-disabled person. A failure to do so would amount to disability discrimination.

For an employee with cancer, the Equality and Human Rights Commission suggests that a reasonable adjustment could be to allow the employee a period of disability leave so they can undergo treatment and rehabilitation. When the employee is fit enough to return to work, they may wish to work flexible hours to accommodate their health issues. It would a reasonable adjustment for their employer to permit them to do so.

An employee with a serious medical condition such as cancer will require ongoing support from their employer.

Reach out to the LexLeyton team for support in managing any of the issues raised here. We can assist with advice on how best to handle any challenges that an employee’s particular situation raises, provide policies and training on the complexities of dealing with disability in the workplace and a whole range of services to benefit management of a sustainable working environment

For more on World Cancer Day, visit

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