7 October 2015

Cancer affects 1 in 3 people in the UK and some 90,000 people of working age discover they have the disease each year, with over 700,000 across the country having to live with it.

Survival rates are improving and people are retiring later so that, as a result, many people will continue to work both during and after cancer treatment.

To coincide with Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the TUC has issued guidance for union representatives, employees, line managers and employers on supporting colleagues with cancer at work.

Compiled by TUC Education and Macmillan Cancer Support, the guide addresses a number of issues, including confidentiality.

Staff who talk to their employer about their illness and any difficulties in coping with work should not be penalised, downgraded or made redundant. Instead, employers should be patient, discreet and understanding and should, the TUC says, arrange for alternative or comparable employment, or for appropriate retraining.

Everyone with cancer is classed as disabled under the Equality Act, so employers need to make reasonable adjustments to a member of staff’s working arrangements when they are diagnosed and treated for the disease.

For staff returning to work, a range of options should be open, including changes to working times and patterns, and a review of transport arrangements to and from the workplace.

The TUC argues that getting back to work at the right time and with the right support can provide psychological and financial benefits to workers with cancer. However, General Secretary Frances O’Grady warns, people with cancer can experience considerable prejudice from both managers and colleagues and may try to hide their illness from bosses.

The 60-page publication "Cancer in the workplace: A workbook for union representatives" is available http://bit.ly/1M6QEvE here.