One worker in ten in a survey by Mori for Macmillan Cancer Relief said that they felt their employers treated them badly as a result of their illness, and were not supportive. And the recent report by the Working with Cancer group revealed that more than 40 per cent of employers do not provide any support or information to employees with cancer.
This sort of attitude may be because the employers in question have no experience of the consequences of having the illness and related treatment, and are unaware of the physical and psychological effects. Whatever the reasons, it is unacceptable and workers are now legally protected by the new provisions of the Disability Discrimination Act.
However, discrimination (or victimisation) may still occur: remember that one employer in five is unaware of the terms of the act. The Work and Cancer booklet from Cancerbackupgives a list of examples, including:
If you are in any way anxious about your employer and/or colleagues, itâ€™s a sensible precaution to keep a detailed daily diary from your first day back, recording any days taken off for doctorâ€™s appointments and a clear factual record of any incidents.
If you feel you are being discriminated against, talking openly to your manager (or, if that is difficult, to someone in the human resources department or an occupational health adviser) may help to resolve the situation. Do present (written) solutions to any problems: it demonstrates your commitment to your job. It is wise to check out your legal rights: ask your union representative if you have one, or contact the Disability Rights Commission (helpline: 0845 762 2633, drc-gb.org). The DRC advises employers as well as employees. The Department for Work and Pensions also explains what employers are expected to do. You can find an update at dwp.gov.uk/employers/ dda. The Disability Law Service (tel: 020 7791 9800, dls.org.uk) is a charity offering free confidential legal advice on disability discrimination in employment to people with disabilities, their families and carers, as well as advice about welfare benefits.