Employment Experts Urge Businesses To Support Staff With Disability
Employment experts at national law firm Irwin Mitchell call for businesses to make sure they’re abiding by equality law for cancer patients after charity Macmillan report that almost one-fifth face workplace discrimination because of their illness.
The survey conducted by Macmillan Cancer Support indicates that 15 per cent of cancer patients returned to work before feeling ready, and others said they felt guilty for taking time off work for medical appointments.
The right support at work is vital, according to Macmillan, with one in three people living with cancer in the UK being of working age. The charity suggests that employers should be providing managers with the right skills to know how to deal with a situation of this kind.
The survey also suggests that 14 per cent of those diagnosed with cancer give up work or are made redundant as a result.
Mr Terry Foster, 58, from Southport, told the BBC Victoria Derbyshire programme that he was sacked on arrival back to work following treatment for cancer.
Mr Foster said he was sacked because his manager felt that he wouldn’t be able to handle the stress of the job.
He later took the company to an employment tribunal and was awarded more than £62,000 for unfair dismissal.
Under the Equality Act 2010, employees are protected against unfavourable treatment on the grounds of disability. The Equality Act expressly states that cancer is a deemed disability for the purposes of the equality legislation, from the point of diagnosis.
In particular, employers risk legal action against them where they fail to make reasonable adjustments to working practices and the workplace for employees who are known to have cancer.
A comprehensive list of what may be considered a “reasonable adjustment” for the purposes of the Equality Act is not provided. In the case of employees with cancer however, modifications are likely to include:
• Reduced or changed working hours or flexi-time;
• Increased rest period or self-paced workload;
• Changing job descriptions to remove tasks that cause problems, or (temporarily) allocating some of the tasks to a colleague
• Arrangement of the workplace so less physical exertion is necessary;
• Controlled workplace temperature.
Irwin Mitchell work on behalf of many businesses to ensure they comply with the latest employment laws. Joanne Moseley, employment expert at Irwin Mitchell, said:
“It is important for employers to make sure that they’re abiding by the latest employment laws and that they are making work adjustments to their business for cancer patients.
“Heading back to work is part of a cancer patient’s rehabilitation – to get back to a familiar routine and to build their confidence once again. Being withdrawn from this will ultimately damage their recovery and will most likely leave them in a detrimental financial situation.
“Many businesses that we work with offer support to workers, and even if they are just small adjustments, these changes can make a huge difference to the patient’s working day; such as phased return or flexible hours, so the employee can deal with fatigue more comfortably, and by providing skills training for managers to ensure they understand how to deal with these conditions.”
“It should be noted that reasonable adjustments are intended to ease an employee’s transition back into the workplace, and therefore employers are not required to pay enhanced sick pay to employees who are absent as a result of their cancer treatment.
“That said, employers should always make an effort to ask the individual how their work could be adjusted to alleviate stress and fatigue. They should ensure for these purposes that they remain flexible and open to the needs of their people.”
Jo Moseley - Senior Associate