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  1. Hi does my employer have the right to ask why I've been off on the sick.....I'm being called in for a welfare meeting + the manager has said that the employer wants to know why I've been off so longBlush.Legally do I have to tell them? Thanks Blush 
  • Hi

    Thank you for contacting us here at Macmillan.  My name is Rachel and I am a Work Support Advisor on Macmillan’s National Support Line.  My team provides guidance on your rights at work when you are affected by cancer.   

    It sounds like you have been on sick leave for some time, but that precise details of your health have not been shared with your employer so far.  I hope that the following information will help you in understanding your legal position in disclosing details relating to your health, but also around the legislation which may protect you, depending upon the nature of your ill health,  if your employers are made aware.

    Under the Data Protection Act 2018, everyone who lives in the UK has the right to medical confidentiality, as such information is classed as sensitive data. Therefore if you have a cancer diagnosis, when or if you tell your employer about it, is your choice. So long as you do not lie to your employer, you can tell them when you feel it is the right time for you.

    It might be useful to know however, that if you are based in the UK and have a cancer diagnosis and your employer is made aware of it, you will also have additional rights. Under the Equality Act 2010 for England, Scotland and Wales (Disability Discrimination Act 1995 in Northern Ireland) anyone with a cancer diagnosis is automatically considered to be disabled. This protection is life long and does not depend on you having active cancer treatment. The protection means your employer should not discriminate against you for any reason related to your cancer. It also allows you to request that your employer makes reasonable adjustments at work for any substantial difficulties you face in your role that are linked to your cancer. You might find it useful to look at our booklet “Your Rights At Work” which has more information around this. If your employer is not aware or could not reasonably be expected to be aware of your diagnosis, then you may not be covered by this legislation.

     If you did choose to share details of your health, you may wish to talk to your employer about whether you want your colleagues to be told about your condition.  Your employer should not give out this information without your permission.   Your employer also has a responsibility to take care to protect your personal records, including emails and any meeting notes containing details about your condition.  This type of personal data should only be used with your permission.

    If you have been off work on sick leave for some time, it is a good idea to understand how your employer manages long term sickness absence within your organisation.  You may find that they have a specific policy relating to this and your line manager or HR team will be able to guide you to it.  This might help you understand what could be discussed in the welfare meeting.  Your employer will very likely want to check on your wellbeing and understand how they might support you whilst you are off work and what support you might require from them when preparing to return to work.  If you are in a union, you could also contact them for any support you may require.

    I hope this has helped but please do contact us again if there is anything else we can help you with. You can either reply to this message, email us, or contact us on the Macmillan Support Line directly. We are available on webchat or via phone from 8am to 6pm Monday to Friday. To call us, our number is 0808 808 0000 option 1, then 2, then 3.

    Best regards

    Rachel, Work Support Advisor 

    Remember you can also speak with the Macmillan Support Line team of experts. Phone free on 0808 808 0000 (7 days a week, 8am-8pm) or by email.