Cancer sufferers still face discrimination at work despite amendments to Disability Discrimination Act

Employers are still discriminating against women with cancer despite changes in the law aimed at protecting workers from unfair treatment.

Figures from the Disability Rights Commission’s (DRC) helpline show that this year the DRC has taken on average two calls a week from women with breast cancer complaining of unfair treatment at work.

In total, more than 70 women with breast cancer and 103 people with other forms of cancer have called its helpline complaining of problems with their employers.

An amendment to the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) in December 2005 means people with these conditions receive legal protection from the point of diagnosis.

Among callers with other cancers, most (82%) cited employers failing to make reasonable adjustments that would keep them in work; nearly one in five callers reported having been dismissed; a further 13% of callers complained of facing threats of dismissal; and nearly 6% of callers were facing disciplinary action.

For workers with cancer, reasonable adjustments could include flexible working, alterations to working hours and time off for medical treatment.

Agnes Fletcher, assistant director of communications at the DRC, said: “Despite changes in the law to protect people with cancer and long-term health conditions from unfair treatment at work, many employers still haven’t got the message.

“Direct discrimination and failures to make adjustments is turning the world of work into a very hostile environment for workers with these disabilities.”

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