Dissmisall at work & BUPA medical insurance?

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I am currently recovering from a cancer (finished radiotherapy, chemo etc) and suffer from severe fatigue as well as Lymphedema. I have been off work from March 2022 (almost 7 months). My SSP has been expired after 28 weeks and also my company sick pay will expire after 20 Sept. I am now really struggling to make a decision whether to go back on the 21st Sept. Genuinely I am not feeling good enough. The Oncologist said I would need another 6 months to recover from the severe fatigue. I wonder what is going to happen once my Company sick pay expires. Am I going to be dismissed? I have worked for them over 19 years. I also have BUPA insurance which is worth gold to me as I am receiving all treatments with BUPA. Is my medical insurance going to stop when I stop receiving "salary"? My understanding is that if my Medical insurance stops it will be impossible to get the new insurance as my cancer will be classes as pre-existing condition. So my company would need the keep paying for me? Will they do this for next 6 months when I am not working? Or should I offer to pay them to keep BUPA continually active. If anything I would need to go back to work just to make my BUPA going but I really do not feel ready. What is your advice? 

I would like to also let you know that I have been on Company sick pay (100%) couple of months and they have reduced my salary (50%) without informing me end of July. (21st of September, is my own assumption of when the 50% will ceased)... Nobody from HR or Payroll contacted me (Though I have regular meetings with Occupational Health and on regular emails with my line manager). This worries me to death, if they didn’t contact me about reduction of salary, with such negligence they also might stop my BUPA soon   

  • 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 and I would like to provide you with some information which I hope will help you with your enquiry.

    It is good to read that you have now completed your treatment, but I am so sorry that you are experiencing some longer-term side effects following it.  Before considering whether returning to work is right for you just now, it will be important for you to discuss this with your GP or the team looking after you at the hospital.  It is so important that you are ready both physically and emotionally, to return to work.

    What you are paid during any period of sickness absence depends on what is stated in your contract, so it will be important to check your policies / contract on sickness absence (including management and pay), as your employer must follow this.  It is the employee’s responsibility to be aware of this.  As an example, if your employment contract states that you should be paid 3 months’ full pay then 3 months’ half pay, then nothing, this is what your employer must pay you.

    When any contractual or statutory sick pay period ends, there is still an employment contract between the employer and the employee.  This contract does not end, just because sick pay has been exhausted, so it will be important for you to continue reporting your sickness to your employer as you have been doing and following their rules around sickness absence management.   Your employer can issue you with an SSP1 form which may mean that you may be eligible for benefits.   If reaching the end of your sick pay entitlement causes you any financial worry, it would be worthwhile speaking to our team of Welfare Rights Advisors, who can explore any financial support which might be available to you. The team would be glad to help you but is not currently represented on the Ask an Expert forum and can be contacted on 0808 808 0000, options 1, 2 and 2.  They can also be contacted via LiveChat and by Email.  Their opening hours are 8am until 8pm Monday to Friday and 9am until 5pm on Saturday and Sunday.

    Your BUPA Health Insurance sounds like part of the remuneration package offered by your employer to employees and is not a statutory entitlement. It is understandable to be worried about this being potentially impacted since your pay will shortly come to an end, particularly since you have accessed your treatment using the scheme.  It will be important for you to again check your contract to understand the terms of this benefit and whether this depends on still being paid by your employer.    If you are in a union, it might be worthwhile asking for their support.

    I thought it might be useful at this stage of my response to make you aware that as long as your employer is aware of your cancer diagnosis, you are protected by a law called the Equality Act 2010 if you live in England, Scotland or Wales (Disability Discrimination Act 1995 in Northern Ireland) . The law says that due to your cancer diagnosis you are protected from any discrimination relating to it and also that your employer is duty-bound to make reasonable adjustments to help you either remain at or return to work if you have had a period of absence.  Our publication “Your Rights At Work” explains more about the Acts and how you are protected in the workplace following your diagnosis. 

    Reasonable adjustments remove or minimise disadvantages experienced by disabled people. Employers must make reasonable adjustments to ensure that disabled people are not disadvantaged in the workplace. They should also make sure policies and practices do not put disabled people at a disadvantage.  

    You can request a reasonable adjustment in the workplace, providing you can relate it back to your cancer. Your employer has a duty to consider all reasonable adjustments and a failure to do so could suggest disability discrimination. If your employer rejects a reasonable adjustment request, they need to be able to demonstrate why it is “unreasonable” for them to accommodate or it could suggest that you are being treated less favourably as a disabled person. If you feel this applies, it would be advisable to seek further advice. 

    Once you are ready to think about returning to work, it might be useful to consider if there are any reasonable adjustments which might support you.  It might help you to make a request in writing for any reasonable adjustments to help you cope with your job.  If you have a union rep you could discuss this with them.  You could also make your request using the reasonable adjustment template letter available on the Equality Advisory Support Service (EASS). You can include suggestions about the adjustments you need. It may help to support your request with medical evidence from your doctor, such as a Fit Note that lists the adjustments you need. Since you have an existing relationship with Occupational Health, you could discuss these with them when formalising your return to work plan. 

    It will also be important for you to be aware that employers have the right to manage sickness absence within their organisation so understanding how your employer does this, will be very useful.  Again, you should be able to find this information in your employer’s policies on sickness absence.  An employer should follow their own sickness absence management process and whilst they can terminate employment if an employee is not capable of doing their job, they must first follow a fair procedure. This includes looking at the possibility of returning to work within a reasonable time frame. They should also consider any reasonable adjustments that would enable the employee to return to work. 

    If, as is sometimes the case, an employee cannot give a reasonable expected return date after long-term sickness absence or would be unable to carry out their role with any reasonable adjustments then the dismissal can be deemed as fair. This may also apply even though the employee has a disability.

    In your instance it does not sound as though dismissal is on the cards at this stage. It is likely that your employer may ask questions about whether you are likely to be able to return to work and when. This date is not written in stone and could be reviewed later if needed. If you cannot provide an expected return to work date but do intend to return when your health permits, you may find it beneficial to ensure that your employer is aware of this by giving them positive messages.

    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.

    Kind 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.