ACAS has issued new guidance to assist employers in managing
staff who have long-term or potentially life-threatening illnesses,
such as cancer, HIV and multiple sclerosis.
ACAS has published its guidance in light of projections drawn up
by Macmillan Cancer Support in 2013 which estimated that by 2020
47% of the population would be diagnosed with cancer at some stage
in their life. With employees continuing to work longer, this
issue is likely to become more prevalent for employers.
Employers need to be able to understand the law in relation to
life-threatening illnesses and also appropriately manage staff who
have these conditions.
The Equality Act 2010 (the Act) prohibits
discrimination in employment in respect of disability. The
definition of disability in the Act is "a physical or
mental impairment" which "has a substantial and
long-term adverse effect on [that person's] ability to carry
out normal day-to-day activities".
Under the Act, there are some medical conditions that are
expressly deemed to be disabilities from the point of diagnosis,
including cancer, HIV and multiple sclerosis. Employees with these
conditions are automatically protected against discrimination under
If an employee suffers from one of these three conditions, or if
their condition otherwise falls within the definition of
disability, the employer must be careful to avoid:
discrimination arising from a disability;
failing to comply with their duty to make reasonable
Tips for employers
ACAS's tips for an employer dealing with an employee who has
a potentially life-threatening condition include:
have an early conversation with the employee to find out
whether they want to share their news with colleagues –
colleagues may be more understanding about any change in working
arrangements if they know what's happening;
discuss the illness with the employee to find out whether there
are any reasonable adjustments that could assist them i.e. a change
in working hours, type of work or extra time off for medical
meet with the employee regularly to ascertain whether any
additional adjustments and/or support is required; and
ensure that employees are aware of their workplace rights
including sick pay and other benefits that they could be entitled
In SSE Generation Limited v Hochtief Solutions AG and another decided on 21st December 2016, the Court of Session in Scotland considered a contractor's potential design liability under the NEC Form of Contract.
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