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Diagnosed with cancer whilst in 2nd month of probation

Posted by


I don't know if I can ask this on this site, but I have an employee who has been diagnosed with bowel cancer, and will have 6 months of 9 bouts of chemo. 

He is in 2nd month of his probation period, and I want to understand how we stand from a legal perspective for his probation, as we cannot confirm his employment as bed ridden, plus am concerned that if we extend it is deemed unfair. 

Any guidance would be helpful?

Sian R - Macmillan
Posted by

Hi ,

Thank you so much for taking the time to contact us about your employee’s situation.

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

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. An employer should also ensure that policies and practices do not put disabled people at a disadvantage.

Your employee can request reasonable adjustments in the workplace, providing that they can relate them back to their cancer. An employer has a duty to consider all reasonable adjustments and a failure to do so could suggest disability discrimination. If an employer needs to turn down a reasonable adjustment request, they would need to be able to demonstrate why it is “unreasonable” to accommodate this or it could suggest that the employee is being treated less favourably as a disabled person.

Examples of reasonable adjustments that you could discuss with your employee may be an extension to their probation period or a phased return once they are well enough to return to work.

You may find it useful to read through “Managing Cancer In The Workplace” which details your responsibilities as an employer. It also covers how cancer affects people on a physical and emotional level. We also have information for employers on our Macmillan website, as well as information for small businesses.

Additionally you can contact our Macmillan At Work team. The team provide expert training, consultancy, information and support as well as resources you may find useful. You can contact them via email (by following the link above) or by phone directly on 0207 840 4725.

In addition, ACAS can provide further support for employers.

I do hope this is the kind of support you were looking for. If you do need any further information, please do not hesitate to contact us again.

Kind regards,

Work Support Adviser
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.