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Hi, Our lovely  colleague has just  be told that her cancer is terminal.  Need to consider staff and pupils.    I am the head teacher and am heavily involved in supporting the family as best I can.  I am not telling staff until the family is ready for me to do so.  Any advice appreciated. x

Sian R - Macmillan
Posted by

Hi ,

Thank you for contacting us about your colleague’s diagnosis at what must be a difficult time for you all.

It is good to hear that you are supporting your colleague as well the wider school family. I am not sure if you are aware, but we have a couple of very useful booklets which may assist you in thinking about starting a conversation about your colleague’s illness and prognosis. Our booklets ‘Talking About Cancer’ and ‘Talking To Children And Teenagers When An Adult Has Cancer’ can be found by using these links. You are also more than welcome to contact our Information and Support advisors who can talk you through any questions or queries you may have regarding these conversations. You can contact them confidentially online or by calling 0808 808 0000 from 8am to 8pm, Monday to Sunday.

It sounds like you are being really supportive of your colleague. You may already be aware, but I thought that it would be helpful for you to know that due to their cancer diagnosis, your colleague is considered to have a disability under the Equality Act 2010 or Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (in Northern Ireland). This means that an employer should not discriminate against them because of their cancer. An employer is also under a duty to make reasonable adjustments to help their employee at work and to ensure that disabled people are not disadvantaged in the workplace. This protection is lifelong and doesn’t depend on an active cancer diagnosis.

It is unclear from your question whether your colleague is off work sick or is still working. If they are able to work or can do some element of their role then reasonable adjustments should be made for them. If you would like further information on work and cancer please call the Work Support team between 8am and 6pm from Monday to Friday.  

You may find it useful to read through ‘Managing Cancer In The Workplace’ which provides further information for you as an employer.

We can provide training for employers through our Macmillan At Work programme. The team provide expert training, consultancy, information and support as well as resources you may find useful. You can contact them via email or call them directly on 0207 840 4725.

We appreciate that this can be a delicate subject to broach, but I feel it is important to mention that if someone has a terminal prognosis and they have life/critical illness insurance, occupational or private pensions it may be beneficial to speak to our Financial Guides as to whether they can potentially make an early draw down on these. They can also provide guidance on Death in Service benefits and estate planning. Additionally, certain welfare benefits may be paid on a fast-track basis if someone is terminal. It would be advisable to encourage your colleague to speak to our Financial Guides and Welfare Rights Advisors by calling the number below and selecting the appropriate options.

Opening times:

Financial Guides: Monday to Friday 8am to 6pm

Welfare Rights: Monday to Friday 8am to 8pm, Saturday 9am to 5pm

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.

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.