I am a relief support worker in a residential home, currently working about 3 shifts a week on different days of the week. It is essentially a zero hours contract.
My manager has said no statutory sick pay is available as I am only a relief worker. But I have looked at the relevant pages on gov.uk which seems to suggest I might be eligible for something?
Also due to Covid I will have to take an additional 2 weeks off work to self isolate before surgery so will be off work longer.
Thank you for taking the time to get in touch with us on the Work Support Team. I am sorry to hear that your employer has informed you that you are not eligible to claim Statutory Sick Pay (SSP).
Whilst there is some information on SSP eligibility on the Gov.uk website it would be advisable for you to speak to our Welfare Rights advisors on the Money and Work Team in order to find out your SSP eligibility for certain. This team will also be able to do a full benefits check to identify your potential eligibility for any other state benefits. You can contact this team by calling 0808 808 00 00 for free and selecting options 1, 2 then 2. They are available between 8am and 8pm Monday to Friday and from 9am to 5pm on Saturdays.
As you will need to take an additional two weeks off work to self-isolate before surgery it would be worthwhile asking your employer how they would pay you for this time. If you are not eligible for SSP it may be the case that you do not receive any pay.
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.
Sometimes, people affected by cancer are concerned that their need to have time off sick that is linked to their cancer diagnosis will mean that they are more likely to be disciplined, or even dismissed, due to their attendance. Under the Equality legislation mentioned above there is no automatic right for an employer to disregard any disability-related absence as part of a sickness management process.
Some employers include, in their sickness and absence policy, that they will exclude any disability (cancer)-related absence from sickness management triggers. This means that if an employee required time off for cancer treatment, these occasions would be excluded from hitting sickness management triggers. This is to ensure that people who are protected under the Equality Act 2010 or Disability Discrimination Act 1995 are not at a disadvantage in the workplace. It may be worth checking your organisation’s sickness management policy. If it does not state any disability or cancer-related absence will be excluded, you could ask if they could accommodate this for you to ensure you are not being treated less favourably.
It is not a reasonable adjustment for an employer to give higher ‘trigger points’ to a disabled employee when they are off sick compared to a non-disabled employee but an employer would have to proceed carefully when looking at the consequences of additional absence, such as capability proceedings, in the case of a disabled employee. This is because a disabled employee should not be treated less favourably.
If there are any changes that you feel could help you to do your job despite the barriers that your cancer diagnosis may put in your way you can request them as reasonable adjustments providing you can relate them 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.
In order to make a request in writing for reasonable adjustments, should you wish to do so, I have attached a link to Equality Advisory and Support Service template letters that you can use to request reasonable adjustments (titled “Request to make Reasonable Adjustments”). If you have a union rep you could discuss this with them. You can include suggestions about the adjustments you need. It may help to support your request with medical evidence from your doctor, such as a Fit Note that lists the adjustments you need.
I hope you find this information helpful to your situation if you need further support please do not hesitate to contact us back.
Whatever cancer throws your way, we’re right there with you.
We’re here to provide physical, financial and emotional support.
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