10th July 2017

An employment tribunal has awarded a woman £50,000 compensation after her former employers accused her of not doing ‘a single day’s work’ while she underwent treatment for breast cancer. The tribunal ruled that she had been the victim of unfavourable treatment due to her disability.

Enrique Garcia is an employment law consultant with the ELAS Group. He says: “This case shows the importance of adherence to discrimination laws for all employers.  Cancer, whatever type, is a disability and people who have been diagnosed with cancer are automatically protected from discrimination under the Equality Act 2010, including:

  1. Less favourable treatment than the employer gives or would give others without cancer
  2. Unfavourable treatment arising out of the disability
  3. A failure to make reasonable adjustments
  4. Harassment on the grounds of the cancer

“Reasonable adjustments can include flexible working around treatment, support in the workplace and relaxing the absence rules for the employee.

“In this case, the employer’s conduct amounted to unfavourable treatment and harassment arising out of the disability.

“This case emphasises why negative comments from employers towards employees should be avoided.  Where there are concerns about an employee’s capability due to a long standing illness, appropriate action can be taken but it’s important to follow formal welfare and medical capability processes.  These will generally explore what the employee is and is not capable of doing, will look at any medical evidence such as Occupational Health or GP reports and consider what adjustments can be put in place and/or any other roles that are available.  If no solutions are found then dismissal can be considered, however this must be done properly to avoid claims of discrimination and unfair dismissal.  Proper advice should be sought each step of the way.”


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