There are now more than two million people in the UK living with cancer and over 700,000 are of working age. For many people with cancer remaining in or returning to work, after or during treatment, is important and employers can play a vital role in making this happen.

Yet the majority of employers aren't aware that they have responsibilities to support their employees with cancer. That’s why it is important employers know about the Equality Act 2010, which came into force on 1 October and applies in England, Scotland and Wales.

As part of its Working through cancer campaign, Macmillan Cancer Support has put together some essential information to help employers understand what the Equality Act means for employees with cancer, their carers and HR professionals: The Equality Act 2010 and cancer - how it affects you: a guide for employers.

Ciarán Devane, Chief Executive at Macmillan Cancer Support, says “There are people with cancer who want to work and have the skills and experience to benefit their employer. It makes no sense to stop them from working when simple changes to their hours or environment could keep them at work.”

Sometimes a small adjustment is all it takes to help someone with cancer get back to work. Despite this
new research by Macmillan found that less than half of people with cancer who were working when they were diagnosed say their employer discussed sick pay entitlement, flexible working conditions, or workplace adjustments with them when they informed their employer they had cancer.

‘When I returned to work after treatment no one even asked if I was capable of doing the same as before I’d cancer. It was just expected that I’d do the same hours. It all caught up with me and I started to suffer extreme fatigue and went off sick again. When I felt I was being threatened with losing my job if I couldn’t do a full week, I realised it was time to find out if I had any rights as I didn’t know, and neither did my employer.’ said Alan, 59, from Lancashire who was diagnosed with leukaemia.

How Macmillan can help you

• find out about the new Equality Act and employer obligations to staff affected by cancer
• get practical guidance and support on how to support staff with cancer to remain in, or get back to, work.

For information about work and cancer in Northern Ireland click here.