Long term illness and your employee rights explained

News Article

If you have been diagnosed with an illness, such as cancer, what are your employment rights? Many people do not realise that, in certain circumstances, a long term illness is treated in the same way as a disability and, as such, you are protected from workplace discrimination.

Included within the Equality Act 2010 is the right for employees not to be subjected to less favourable treatment because of a ‘protected characteristic’ – one of which is disability. This means that employees are protected from dismissal or other detrimental treatment because of a condition which meets the statutory definition of a disability.

According to the Act, in order for someone to be classed as disabled, they must have either a physical or mental impairment which results in substantial adverse effects.

These substantial adverse effects must be long-term and must impact on normal day-to-day activities. These requirements imply that someone must experience the effects of their condition to the extent that it affects their everyday activities.

Charlotte Woolven Brown, an employment law expert with Palmers said: “There are some conditions that qualify as a disability under the Act even though they do not necessarily meet all of the aforementioned requirements.

“People diagnosed with cancer, a HIV infection or multiple sclerosis are, by law, considered as having a disability for the purposes of the protection offered under the Equality Act. This means that people suffering from these conditions do not necessarily need to be experiencing effects on their day-to-day activities, as they are afforded protection before this happens.

“In order to help remove the barriers created by an individual’s condition, employers have to make reasonable adjustments to the job role. These reasonable adjustments may not just be in relation to physical aspects of the job, but may include amendments to an individual’s employment contract.

“A recent Court of Appeal case held that it was not a reasonable adjustment for an employer to continually extend trigger points for disciplinary action because of sickness absence levels for an employee with a disability.

“In fact, disciplinary action for disability-related absences may actually constitute ‘discrimination arising from a disability’ which is grounds for an employment tribunal claim.

At a time when someone is battling a long-term illness such as cancer, a HIV infection or multiple sclerosis, there is enough to deal with, without worrying about how your employer will view your illness, so it is reassuring to know that employment law can provide support in those circumstances.”

If you are experiencing problems at work and need help and support with employment law issues, please contact us.