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Returning to work after breast cancer: Insights and legal rights

Will Clayton, one of our partners here at Constantine Law, recently spoke at Future Dreams Breast Cancer Charity’s Back to Work Panel event. Read on for his thoughts on the event and to find out more about workplace rights for cancer patients and survivors.

Last week, I had the incredible opportunity to join the first Back to Work Panel event hosted by the amazing team at Future Dreams Breast Cancer Charity. The event aimed to support individuals returning to work following a breast cancer diagnosis, surgery or treatment. It was heartening to see the event sell out in less than an hour, with attendees so eager to participate that some had to stand.

The discussion kicked off with a powerful opening address from business coach Julia Leckey. Julia shared her dual perspective of returning to work after a cancer diagnosis and managing employees with cancer. Joining her on the panel were Naomi Hands VP of HR at The Estée Lauder Companies Inc., Teena Gill, Operations Director at Savills, and Carla Faria, Executive and Personal Coach. Each brought invaluable insights and experiences to the table, making for a dynamic and engaging conversation.

When it was my turn to speak, my goal was to provide attendees with crucial knowledge about their legal rights. I discussed the importance of reasonable adjustments in the workplace and protections against discrimination, harassment, and victimization under the Equality Act 2010. The support of the wonderful Adeline Willis, who shared her personal experiences with unlawful cancer discrimination and offered advice on contemplating legal action, added a deeply personal and practical perspective.

I’m grateful to the attendees who approached me after the event to share their own experiences of unfavourable treatment from employers following their return to work. This additional stress and anxiety are the last things anyone recovering from cancer needs, and speaking up about that kind of experience is a crucial step in making change happen.


Cancer patients and workplace discrimination

For me, the biggest takeaway from the event was this: discrimination at work remains a significant issue for cancer patients. While outright discrimination is rare, many employers treat cancer survivors unfavourably due to needs arising from their condition. Common issues include the need for time off, flexible working schedules, and adjustments to accommodate ongoing treatment or side effects.

Most commonly, temporary job adjustments intended to ease the transition back to work often become permanent, adversely affecting the individual's career progression and job security. These long-term negative impacts are not always immediately apparent but without the appropriate interventions, they can, and often do, have devastating consequences.


Looking ahead

Future Dreams is doing tremendous work in supporting individuals facing workplace challenges after a breast cancer diagnosis and I look forward to continuing to support them and their service users.

A big thank you to Sam Jacobs, Louise Court, and the entire Future Dreams team for organizing such an impactful event.

If you’d like a copy of my brief guide to the Employment Rights for people with cancer, download this short guide. [1] 



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