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Questions about work and cancer? Our Work Support team are here to answer your questions. They'll aim to respond within 1 working day.


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Hi I have just left my job and was going to have a few weeks off before starting my new job then I get the bombshell I have cancer, what do I do about the new job as I can't afford not to work ?

Su - Macmillan
Posted by

Hello ,

Thank you so much for taking the time to contact us about your work situation. I am sorry to hear about your recent cancer bombshell and understand this has impacted you.

As you have a cancer diagnosis you are considered to have a disability under the Equality Act 2010 or Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (Northern Ireland). This means your employer or future employer should not discriminate against you because of your cancer. Your employer is also under a duty to make reasonable adjustments to help you at work. This protection is lifelong and does not depend on an active cancer diagnosis.

I have attached a link our booklet “Your Rights at Work’”, which explains more about the Equality Act and how you are protected in the workplace.

Usually when someone is offered a job, your ability to undertake the intrinsic elements would have been assessed at the selection stage. It is unclear from the information you have provided what is the nature of your job and whether your cancer diagnosis now affects your ability to carry out your duties.

The Equality Act 2010 states that employers should only ask questions about health in limited circumstances during the recruitment process. For example, to ensure there is no discrimination during the recruitment process and to take positive action by ensuring people are recruited from certain groups, such as those with disabilities. The employer may need to ask if the applicant is able to complete an essential part of the job. Employers only have a duty to provide adjustments to “disabled” people after commencing employment to ensure they are not disadvantaged in the workplace.

One option you may need to think about is whether you can negotiate a deferred start date with your employer if you feel you are unable to work at this time. Alternatively, if you feel you may be able to work during or between treatment cycles your employer may be able to support you at work with reasonable adjustments. Reasonable adjustments remove or minimise disadvantages experienced by disabled people. Employers must make reasonable adjustments to ensure 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, to support you in your job 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. If you would like some further support on requesting reasonable adjustments, please come back to us and we will advise you further on this matter.

I would encourage you check your contract of employment with this new employer as you may be entitled to company sick pay. Please note, you would only be entitled to sick pay if you have started your employment, so this is a decision you may need to think about in terms of whether you are well enough to start your new job. Company sick pay is where an employer offers over and above the statutory minimum of SSP (Statutory Sick pay) for employees.

I understand that financially you may need to work, however it may be helpful for you to know about possible financial support we can offer. This includes guidance on benefits (including SSP for employees), grant and allowance and support with mortgages, debts, insurance and pensions. Our Money and Work Team on our Support Line can support you further with any questions about this.

The Money and Work Team are available on the number below and you can call between 8am-8pm from Monday to Friday (press option 2, followed by option 2 then option 2).

I hope you find this information helpful to your situation if you need further support please do not hesitate to contact us back.

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.


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.