We understand that people with cancer are worried about coronavirus. Here is the latest guidance. We will update it regularly.

Ask a Work Support Adviser

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

RE: Employee rights

Posted by

Hi - I’ve been back at work full time since 2018 after treatment for breast cancer. Employer was fantastic when

 I was off, and I came back to a demoted post with my agreement. However, I have been increasingly marginalised and kept out of the loop while my colleague in his 30s with a fraction of my experience and in a role at the same level is given full access to the senior team and enabled at every turn. He has his own office and I am in a corner of a room with his staff. I have no staff and resource even

though I am technically a team leader. Have tried speaking to my manager but she keeps telling me not to take it personally and has refused to move me into the room

with him despite me asking. I’m being made to feel

petty but am feeling very disadvantaged. Not sure what to do next. Our HR are not very good, and union v combative. My husband tells me to pull back and not get stressed but it’s very hard. Any advice appreciated! 

Sian R - Macmillan
Posted by

Hello ,

Thank you so much for taking the time to contact us and I am sorry to hear that you feel disadvantaged and marginalised at work.

I will take some time to go through your rights at work with 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 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.

It sounds from your message that your employer (with your agreement) has, as a reasonable adjustment, moved you into an alternative role. However, you mention feeling left out of the loop and feeling disadvantaged. If you feel that you are being treated less favorably or disadvantaged and this is related to the fact that you have been affected by cancer, this could potentially be disability discrimination.

It is unclear from your enquiry if you have already done so already, but if you feel that your concerns are not being taken seriously or if you are dissatisfied with the way your employer has dealt with your complaint, the next step would be to raise a formal grievance.

Your employer should have a grievance procedure and it would be advisable to check the company policy. You can find out more about grievance procedures on Citizens Advice Bureau’s website here. There is also a grievance template letter which may be helpful for you.

You can find a useful guide about raising a grievance in a discrimination case here

If you raise a grievance and do not feel that it has been resolved satisfactorily, you may need to refer the complaint to an Employment Tribunal. You would normally need to submit a claim to the tribunal within 3 months, i.e., three months less one day from the date that the act of discrimination or unfair dismissal occurred. If you are outside this time limit the tribunal service can refuse to accept the case. When you contact ACAS and start the conciliation process, this puts a hold on the time limit. If the conciliation process comes to an end and if it is not successful, you should be issued with a certificate from ACAS which confirms this. The time limit would restart from the date that you treated as being in receipt of the conciliation certificate. The Employment Tribunal claim form can be found here.

If you feel the union is not supportive, you could consider perhaps asking for another union rep or making a complaint about your experience using the union’s complaints process.

We may need further clarification from you about your feelings about being disadvantaged and marginalised. However, it may be helpful for you to know that harassment is a form of discrimination under Equalities legislation if it is connected to disability (amongst some other protected characteristics) known as ‘harassment related to a protected characteristic’. The legislation says that harassment occurs when behaviour is meant to or has the effect of either violating your dignity or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment.

Harassment is unwanted behaviour which you find offensive or which makes you feel intimidated or humiliated. It can happen on its own or alongside other forms of discrimination.

Unwanted behaviour could be, for example, spoken or written words or abuse, offensive emails, tweets or comments on social networking sites, images and graffiti, physical gestures, facial expressions or jokes. You do not need to have previously objected to something for it to be unwanted.

This means that an action is harassment even if the person harassing you did not mean to offend or intimidate you, as long as the harassment has one of the above effects. If you go to court, the judge may have to decide if is harassment or not. They will look at how the behaviour made you feel and whether it is reasonable for you to feel this way.

If you feel you are being subjected to harassment, then you should raise this with your manager or HR department to allow them an opportunity to address your complaint. If you feel that this is not taken seriously, then the next stage would be to raise a formal grievance as per the advice above.

To offer information and support to employers, we publish a booklet called “Managing cancer in the workplace”, this is written for employers to gain a clearer understand of how to support employees who have been affected by cancer in the workplace, here is a link to the booklet for you.

We also have Macmillan at Work where they can get access to expert training, resources and advice on how to support staff affected by cancer, here is the link to the pages. You may wish to share these resources with your manager.

I hope you find this information helpful to your situation and please do not hesitate to contact us back if you wish to discuss this further with us.

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.