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Do I have to tell my employer I have cancer?

In this Q&A, employment law specialist, Duncan, gives advice on the pros and cons of informing an employer of your illness and treatment.

‘I’ve just been diagnosed with cancer. I’m confident the recommended treatment will be successful, but I’ll need to take time off work for it. Do I have to tell my employer about my diagnosis and why I need time off?’


Which? employment solicitor, Duncan, says:

Your health is a private matter and you're not obliged to inform your employer about your diagnosis. However, cancer is treated as a disability under the Equality Act 2010, which means your employer will have additional duties and obligations towards you. This will include a legal duty to make reasonable adjustments, which may include allowing you time off work for treatment. However, if your employer doesn't know about your condition, or couldn’t reasonably be expected to know about it, then their duties under the Equality Act will not kick in.  


If I do ask for time off but my employer refuses what can I do?

Your employer can’t refuse you time off for treatment. However, you may not be entitled to paid time off – this will depend on the terms of your employment contract. Your employer may request (written) evidence about the diagnosis and details of time off needed for any treatment and recovery. Your doctor or treatment team should be able to provide this evidence.


Will I have to go back to work full-time after the treatment?

If you are fit enough to do so you can return to work but if the medical advice is that you should have a phased return to work and/or possibly on reduced hours or duties this should be discussed with your employer as possible reasonable adjustments under the Equality Act



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