Redundant after cancer treatment


I returned to work on 5 July 2021 after 9 months absence for cancer treatment.  Immediately upon my return to work I was summoned to the board room and issued with a report advising me I was at risk of redundancy which I believe is a sham redundancy to mask the real reason which I think was related to my cancer diagnosis.  I had been employed by the company, without issue, for 25 years.

Following an unsuccessful appeal, I now find myself looking for alternative employment but am struggling, possibly because my experience is mainly with one company.  Meanwhile I am also seeking advice for potential disability discrimination.

Any tips or advice on what I can do would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you

Slight smile

  • Hi

    My name is Rachel and I am one of the Work Support Advisors at Macmillan. I am so pleased you have contacted us, and I will take some time to look at both issues in your post.

    I am uncertain from your message, but it seems to suggest you were the only person who was made redundant from your company. If this is the situation it may raise questions as to why this was the case.

    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. 

    Redundancy applies to the post or job role when there is less work or fewer people required to complete the work. It does not apply to the person doing the job. Redundancy is a form of dismissal from the job and happens when the employer needs to reduce the workforce. The employer must use a fair and objective way of selection people for redundancy, commonly used methods are:

    • Length of service, voluntary redundancy
    • Disciplinary records
    • Staff appraisal markings, skills, qualifications, and experience.

    The employer can enforce redundancy without the above process if your job no longer exists as the employer is closing and making everyone redundant or there is only one employee in that part of the organisation.

    Selection for reasons involving a protected characteristic (including disability) or for other reasons can be seen as unfair, as shown on this link. Here is a link to Citizens Advice pages on checking a redundancy process is fair.

    As you had been with your employer for more than 2 years, the matter for unfair dismissal could be taken to an Employment Tribunal. Selection criteria including sickness absence due to a disabled employee receiving treatment connected with their disability could be seen as discriminatory and could be taken to an Employment Tribunal.

    Please remember that if you wish to challenge your redundancy as unfair you have 3 months less one day to take to complaint to an Employment Tribunal. If you have not already done so I would encourage you to take this matter to ACAS. They will take you through Early Conciliation (a necessary step prior to Employment Tribunal) to try to resolve the matter between you and your employer. During the Early Conciliation process the clock is stopped on the Employment Tribunal timescale until ACAS issue with a certificate of completion to enable you to refer the case to an Employment Tribunal. Here is a link to ACAS Early Conciliation.

    It may be beneficial to speak to us in relation to this matter to get some more tailored advice and support. If you feel that would be helpful, we are available via telephone, email or webchat, Monday to Friday from 8am till 6pm. To contact us via the phone please call 0808 808 0000 and select option 1, followed by option 2 and then option 3. To email us use this link and we will respond privately to your message, or via our webchat facility using this link.

    With regards to looking for employment following your redundancy, here is some information you may find useful. There is no requirement to divulge your cancer diagnosis at any stage of the recruitment process (slightly different in Northern Ireland, see information below), however, it can be advantage to do so if the employer has a positive policy towards employing people with a disability. Sometimes an employer may offer an applicant a job interview if they say they are disabled and match to criteria expressed in the job profile. The job advert may include the ‘disability confident’ symbol which shows that the employer is committed to employing disabled people and an interview would be guaranteed if the basic conditions for the job are met.

    If an employer has no knowledge of an applicant having a disability, then the applicant would not have the protection under legislation from disability discrimination. Therefore, it can be useful to share your cancer diagnosis with a future employer once and offer of employment has been made to you.

    An employer should only ask questions about your health before offering you a job for the following reasons:

    • They are taking positive action in that they wish to avoid any discrimination during the recruitment process. They want to make sure they are recruiting from a range of different groups – such as those with disabilities. To establish as to whether any reasonable adjustments are needed to gain access to the interview
    • They need to establish as to whether the essential parts of the jobs are able to be carried out by the applicant. For example, an employer has a duty to consider all aspects of health and safety at work. For example, for a driving /forklift job they may need to ask about health and medications. There may be occasions where an applicant may simply be unable to complete the job duties – for example, heavy lifting. However, the employer should also be mindful of whether it would be possible for the applicant to carry out the job if they had reasonable adjustments to complete the tasks.

    Please Note – The information a potential employer can gather as part of the recruitment process relating to heath is slightly different in Northern Ireland, the Labour Relations Agency can provide more information relating to this if needed.

    You mentioned you have been with your previous employer for a considerable amount of time. You might be considering a change of direction, if so, here is more guidance on searching for courses and training on-line and advice about qualifications and funding. You can fine this information on the pages linked here.

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

    Best regards

    Rachel, 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.