1 in 5 cancer sufferers discriminated against at work

1 in 5 cancer sufferers discriminated against at work

New research by Macmillan Cancer has recorded a spike in the number of calls from cancer patients regarding work-related problems.

The Telegraph reports that the figures have risen by 74% from fewer than 1,000 in 2015/16 to 1,711 in the year to May. And, the charity has already received 3,000 so far this calendar year with workers feeling more discriminated against than ever.

According to the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas), discrimination is classed as the unjust or prejudicial treatment of different people.

This can be discrimination in terms of age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage or civil partnership, pregnancy or maternity, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation.

Under the 2010 Equality Act, individuals are considered to have a disability if they have a physical or mental impairment that has a ‘substantial’ and ‘long-term’ negative affect on your ability to do normal daily activities. This can apply to those suffering from cancer too. A breach of discrimination laws has buge implications so employers would be wise to ensure that all employees are treated equally.

The research found that one in five employees who had suffered from cancer said that they faced discrimination in some form. Some claimed that they were demoted from their positions, while four per cent said that they lost their job because of their cancer diagnosis.

Commenting on the results of the survey, Liz Egan of Macmillan says that many bosses have “misconceptions” about employees with cancer. She adds:

“We know how important it is to many people to work during cancer treatment, or return to employment afterwards, and this is entirely possible with the right support.”

Additionally, the survey shed some light on the reasons behind bosses consciously or unconsciously discriminating against employees with cancer.

Eight per cent of managers said they are concerned that someone could use their illness as an excuse not to pull their weight at work, while some expressed fears that their employees would not stay in their job for a long period of time.

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A further one in eight claimed that their diagnosis could cause awkwardness in the office, while 12% thought that this would cause their colleagues to express resentment.

So, what can employers do to make their workplace more inclusive and support employees living with cancer?

According to Macmillan, here are seven tips for supporting employees with cancer:

  • Options for time off to attend medical appointments

  • Maintain appropriate contact with the employee so they don’t feel out of touch

  • Support them with their return-to-work options

  • Give them access to an occupational health adviser – they can draw on their clinical knowledge and awareness of specific duties of the employee’s role

  • Make reasonable adjustments as flexible working, regular work breaks and working from home

  • If they decide to resign, clarify the reasons behind this and ensure that are clued-up on all of their options

  • If your employee or their loved one passes away, they will require additional emotional support

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