Discrimination at work?

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My son, 26, was diagnosed with GBM4 in December 2020. He has gone through a craniotomy, radio and chemo and thankfully every scan has come back as no new growth. If you see him walking down the street you'd never know he is illl.

He has a job at the local Burger King. Started in the kitchen, but has been moved by the restaurant manager to the front service. She has expressly told him that this is for his own safety as she is worried something might happen to him in the kitchen (if he would have a seizure for example).

While I appreciate her showing concern for his wellbeing, he has been completely honest and forthcoming during his interview so they knew his position. 

Is her treatment of my son classed as discrimination? Treating him differently to all the other employees? When he first started he averaged about 16-20hrs/week, now he's lucky to get 5hrs/week. He is on zero hour contract. 

Any advice will be gratefully received. Thank you.

  • Thank you for contacting us on the Online Community. My name is Emma and I’m a Work Support adviser on the Macmillan Support Line. My team discusses employment law rights with people who are affected by cancer.

    As your son has a cancerous tumour, I think you are aware he would be protected by the Equality Act 2010 in England, Scotland and Wales (Disability Discrimination Act 1995 in Northern Ireland). That would mean he is not only protected from discrimination, but he can also ask for reasonable adjustments should he need them. From your message it sounds as though you believe your son is being offered less hours at work by the restaurant manager due to his cancer diagnosis, as well as being restricted to only to front service. Whilst an employer does have a duty to keep their staff safe at work, if a person is treated differently at work due to their cancer this could be discrimination. Unfortunately, I cannot say for certain that your son’s situation is discrimination as only an Employment Tribunal judge can make that decision.

    There is action your son could take to challenge his restaurant manager’s actions. If you’ve not already seen it, you may wish to look at our booklet “Your Rights At Work” which gives examples of discrimination. We also have a booklet for employers called “Managing Cancer In The Workplace”.

    I would suggest that your son raises that he feels he is well enough to work in other areas than the front service role. He could raise that whilst he understands she has a duty to keep him safe, he believes that he isn’t getting enough work now because of these restrictions. He could raise whilst his manager may feel they are protecting him, they may unwittingly discriminate against him by preventing him working.  He could also give his manager the “Managing Cancer In The Workplace” booklet and explain this might help them understand his position and how they can support him better at work.

    If he feels comfortable to do this, he could offer to have himself referred to an Occupational Health provider and his work could commission a medical report which confirms his fitness to work. Or he could ask either his GP or his consultant to write a letter explaining he is fit for work. He could also ask if a risk assessment has been done.

    If he feels his manager is not receptive to resolving the situation, he could also escalate how he feels to either a more senior manager or to his employer’s Human Resources/Personnel department.

    If he is unable to resolve the situation informally, then he could raise a grievance. His employer should have a policy which he could follow. If he is taking this route, please do come back to us for further advice.

    Ultimately if all formal and informal actions fail, the next stages would be Early Conciliation and Employment Tribunal. It is important generally to complete an application for an Employment Tribunal within 3 months minus 1 day from the act of discrimination. If this isn’t completed, it may be time barred from progressing, even if the case is valid.

    I’m also wondering if your son has sought any benefits advice to make up the shortfall in his wages? On the Macmillan Support Line, we have a team of benefits advisers who could check if anything is available. We have advice online how to prepare for the call. He can reach them either over the phone on 0808 808 0000 option 1, then 2, then 2 , or via email or webchat. They are available from 8am to 8pm on weekdays, and 9am to 5pm on weekends.

    If you do need further support with work issues, please do come back to us. You can either reply to this message, phone on 0808 808 0000 option 1, then 2, then 3 , or via email or webchat. We are available from 8am to 6pm Monday to Friday.

    I hope you found this information helpful.


    Kind regards

    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