1. What is the Equality Act of 2010 and how does it cover people who have experienced cancer?

The Equality Act 2010 (“EA”) seeks to protect the rights of individuals against discrimination i.e. unfair treatment due to possessing certain characteristics such as sex, race, age and disability, as well as advancing equal opportunities. Cancer is automatically classified as a disability under the EA, and protection is afforded for those who currently have, have had or care for someone who has cancer.

Employees are protected by the EA, not only when they are in employment, but during the recruitment process, it also has application to terms and conditions of employment, benefits, and to opportunities for training and promotion. The provisions are designed to prevent discrimination from arising and employers are subject to an obligation to make reasonable adjustments for employees with a disability.

There are four principal forms of prohibited conduct under the EA:

  • Direct Discrimination - An individual is treated less favourably due to a protected characteristic

  • Indirect Discrimination - An individual with a protected characteristic is put at a disadvantage due to a provision, criterion, or practice operated by the employer

  • Harassment - An individual is subject to unwanted conduct related to a protected characteristic

  • Victimisation - An individual suffers detriment due their use of the EA i.e. bringing a claim for discrimination

2. What do I do if I am feeling discriminated at work due to having cancer and side effects of cancer?

In the first instance, you should speak to your employer about your concerns to see if there is a way of addressing the underlying issues or any additional support which can be offered. If you wish to raise a formal grievance, you should refer to your employee handbook and follow your employer’s grievance process.

If you are unable to resolve your issues with your employer you may wish to consider legal action. Such an option can, however, be expensive and should be viewed as a last resort.

There are a number of organisations you can contact for impartial advice. These include The Equality and Human Rights Commission, Macmillan Support Line (free) on 0808 808 00 00 or visit your local Citizens Advice Bureau.

3. What can I do to enforce my legal rights as an employee?

You should first informally discuss your concerns with your employer. However, if you do wish to enforce your rights legally, you should speak to a legal adviser or use the services mentioned above to discuss your potential Employment Tribunal claims such as:

  • Failure by your employer to make reasonable adjustments;
  • Direct/indirect discrimination and discrimination arising from a disability;
  • Victimisation and
  • Harassment.

Before commencing a claim in the Employment Tribunal you should contact ACAS who offer a free dispute resolution service which can aide with resolving any employee/employer disputes.

4. What benefits am I entitled to?

Benefit entitlement is a complex area and your entitlement can vary depending on your personal situation. Benefits and social services do also change over time. Your employer may offer a range of benefits such as private medical cover, enhanced sick pay, or permanent health insurance, and you should request information from your HR team as to your entitlement.

You can find additional information at:

  • the Macmillan Support Line (0808 808 00 00) to talk to a welfare rights adviser
  • CRUK provides a useful introduction to the different kinds of benefits available
  • Your local Citizens Advice Bureau can advise you on the full range of benefits

5. If I have to take time off work, am I entitled to pay?

The current rate of Statutory Sick Pay is £88.45 per week. To be eligible for SSP you must:

  • be classed as an employee;
  • have been ill for at least 4 days in a row (including non-working days);
  • earn at least £112 (pre-tax) per week; and
  • have told your employer you’re sick before their deadline - or within 7 days if they don’t have one.

Your employer may also provide enhanced sick pay, for which you should consult your contract of employment or employee handbook. Alternatively, you should contact your HR team to establish what you are entitled to.

6. I am self-employed and struggled to find out what my options are for benefits (ESA was very minimal). Is there anything else available for the self-employed?

If you are self-employed you may be eligible for benefits. Please follow the links at question 4 for further information.

7. Can I claim benefits during cancer?

If you are in employment you should also inquire with your HR team what, if any, benefits you are entitled to from your employer i.e. private medical insurance or permanent health insurance. Please follow the links at question 4 for further information on state benefits.

8. Where can I go to get additional information regarding my legal rights?

There are a lot of useful organisations and services you can use to gain free additional information on your legal rights such as:

Citizens Advice Bureau

Advice Now

The Equality and Human Rights Commission


Alternatively, you can contact a legal adviser and request a consultation to discuss your concerns and potential claims. The Law Society operates a database of legal advisers.