Work sickness question

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Hi. I am currently undergoing chemotherapy for stage 3 Hodgkins Lymphoma and have today received a not very nice letter from my employer advising me that I need to meet with them on Monday to discuss my sickness leave and that this meeting may result in a written warning in relation to my absence. I have had little to no contact with my employer whilst I have been off undergoing treatment and my current sick note from my consultant doesn’t actually specify an end date.

The way I’m which they have communicated and what has been written to me has upset me greatly and I feel that on top of everything that I am going through is another stress that I just don’t need. Do you know where I stand with being placed on a stage 1 sickness and if I must attend this meeting (which will be four days post treatment). Thanks

  • Hi Laura

    My name is Rizwana and I am one of the Work Support Advisers on our Macmillan Support Line. I am sorry for the delay in responding to your query. I’m sorry to hear that the employer’s letter has upset you so I hope you find my advice on dealing with the situation helpful.

    It is important to remember as a cancer patient, that you are protected under the Equality Act 2010 (or Disability Discrimination 1995 if you live in Northern Ireland) from the date of your diagnosis, this remains in place for as long as is needed. Cancer is automatically recognised as a disability under the Act and this means that your employer must not discriminate against you because of the cancer, or for reasons relating to it. 

    You may wish to refer to our booklet ‘Your Rights at Work when Affected by Cancer’ for further information 

    An employer is permitted to manage absence in line with their absence management policy. Under the Equality legislation your  employer can adjust sickness triggers for a disabled employee under the policy, criterion and practice regulations as it can put yourself at a disadvantage compared with a non-disabled person. You can ask as a Reasonable Adjustment (RA) for any Cancer related absences not to be taken into account for any absence trigger points that may be outlined in Sickness Absence Management Policy.

    In respect to recording the number of sickness absences, if an organisation uses trigger points to monitor this, they could provide reasonable adjustments by:

    • not counting some or all sickness absence related to a disability towards those trigger points
    • increasing the number of absences that would trigger a review
    • choosing to record a disability related absence separately to other types of sickness absence. It might be called disability leave or disability-related sickness absence for example.

    A failure to make these adjustments could be seen as a failure to make  RAs which in itself could be classed as an act of discrimination arising from a disability.

    Our Reasonable Adjustment Template can be used to submit your requests for support at work Reasonable adjustments template letter    

    Please see the following ACAS website for further information

    I’m sorry to read that the letter from your employer was not very pleasant, please remember that you should not be treated unfavourably due to your cancer diagnosis.  

    As mentioned, when you are off sick an Employer has the right to remain in contact with you and to manage the sickness absence sometimes in terms of their Company Policy. Please do check the information in the Sickness and Absence Policy( if they have one )  relating to frequency of contact with you when off work. You can agree how often you wish to be contacted and what the preferred method of contact is ie email, phone or text.  If the meeting is at an inconvenient time and you are not well enough to attend, then you can certainly ask for it to be rearranged to a more suitable time. However repeated cancellations can lead to the employer undertaking such a meeting in your absence.

    If you are a member of a trade union you can contact them to accompany you during the meeting plus for any ongoing support.


    I am surprised that your fit note does not specify an end date. I would advise you to check that the note is fully completed including the end date. It is understandable that you are not well to work so please make sure that you are covered by a valid sick note.


    I hope this has been helpful but please do not hesitate to get back in touch with us if you require any further support.


    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