As a charity one of our aims is to make it easier for families to be able to understand the changing circumstances they face and this can include amongst other things, changes to benefits due to being off work either earlier or for longer than maternity leave provides.
In addition, we campaign for easier transference of maternity rights in the unfortunate event that a partner may pass away.
We also recognise that while many employers are incredibly supportive during such circumstances and offer all the necessary flexibility required by families, there are others who sadly are not either through lack of understanding of current employment legislation or though lack of understanding of the situation you and your family find yourselves in.
ACAS (Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Services) provide free and impartial advice to employers and employees on all aspects of workplace relations and employment law. Their website www.acas.org.uk is full useful articles and they also have a helpline 0300 1231100. They can also provide conciliation if things go wrong.
Once you have received your cancer diagnosis you are protected by The Equality Act 2010 under the disability category. This means that you should not be treated unfavourably as a result of your cancer.
If you are ill or recovering from treatment, you are entitled to take time off work through sick leave. If you are eligible for Statutory Sick Pay (see HMRC and/or www.direct.gov websites for details), your employer will be able to pay you Statutory Sick Pay for the first 28 weeks of sick leave. This would be paid in the same way as your wages.
You may also be eligible for Occupational Sick Leave & Pay. If your organisation has an Occupational Sick Leave Policy, you might like to have a read. It will explain how you should report into work if you are unable to attend due to illness. In addition, it should state how much money you will be paid and for how long (e.g. full pay for one month, half pay for another month).
Most organisations require a letter from your doctor to confirm your cancer diagnosis. In addition, for any period of sickness, you will need to submit a “Fit Note” [previous known as Sick Note] from your doctor to your employer. Without a Fit Note, you will not be eligible for Statutory Sick Pay and it is unlikely that your organisation would pay you any additional Occupational Sick Pay.
If at any point from the moment you are diagnosed with cancer, you are worried about taking time off from work, why not talk to your doctor. They will recognise that taking a few days or weeks off can make a huge difference to your health and wellbeing and are able to write a simple note to your employers to allow you to do so
If you are in receipt of a GP medical note you are not required to attend work at all during the time period of the note. In discussion with your GP, s/he may advise on the sick note that you are able to work if you feel up to it. The fit note could recommend reducing your hours or providing alternative suitable arrangements in the workplace. At this point you need to have a discussion with your employer. Alternative suitable arrangements may include a slight change to your role, more breaks, change to seating arrangements, providing suitable equipment or reduced hours. Remember that under employment law legislation it is a requirement from the employer to provide reasonable adjustments in the workplace for an employee who has a disability (this covers cancer).
If you do not feel able to work, then you should gain a GP note.
The earliest you can start maternity leave is 29 weeks– 11 weeks before your Expected Week of Childbirth (otherwise known as your due date). If you are absent from work due to sickness before that point, then it will need to be taken as sick leave. If your baby is born prematurely your maternity leave will start immediately after your baby is born.
If you have any medical appointments during your pregnancy, your employer should give you paid time off work to be able to attend these.
You will need to notify your employer of your pregnancy by submitting the MAT B1 form (which your midwife gives you) to your employer no later than 15 weeks before your Expected Week of Childbirth. Additionally, you will need to notify the employer of the date you would like your maternity leave to commence (giving your employer a minimum of 8 weeks’ notice).
Dependent on your employer’s policies on sick and maternity pay, you may wish to stay on sick leave until ‘the sick pay money runs out’ or the baby is born and then move to maternity. If you are off sick in the last 4 weeks before your Expected Week of Childbirth and it is related to your pregnancy, then your organisation will be able to automatically start your maternity leave.
The law states that for the first two weeks after giving birth you must be on maternity leave. After this period, you can decide when you wish to return to work (giving your employer 8 weeks’ notice of your intent to return to work and end your maternity leave). Once you have ended your maternity leave, you cannot restart it. You cannot claim sick leave pay while you are on maternity leave. Most women use up their paid maternity leave before taking sick leave.
We recognise and appreciate that money worries may be heightened due to time off work on maternity leave. If your condition is likely to mean that you are still ill, undergoing treatment or unable to work due to health conditions relating to your cancer or pregnancy at the end of the period of your paid maternity leave, you might wish to notify your employer that you wish to end your maternity leave at this point.
As long as you have notified your employer of the date to end your maternity leave, if you are then ill when you are due to return to work, you may be eligible to take sick leave from this point. As sick pay and maternity pay are complicated issues, we recommend that you take advice from an independent body such as your trade union or Citizen’s Advice Bureau about the possible impact on your pay. This is particularly important if you are usually paid Statutory Sick Pay, as eligibility for SSP is dependent on previous earnings (which may be impacted by your maternity leave pay).
The Equality Act 2010 covers your situation for both gender (pregnancy and up to the first year after the baby was born) and disability (someone with a cancer diagnosis). Carers of someone with cancer can also be covered.
Employees have a right to unpaid leave for certain emergencies, also known as ‘time off for dependants’. You partner is entitled to take ‘reasonable time off’ to deal with unforeseen situations.
If your partner has been working for their employer for 26 weeks and has a contract of employment, they also have a statutory right to ask for flexible working – a request for a change in working patterns, such as working times or working from home to better fit in with the demands of caring.
Here are some websites and useful articles:
Working and cancer treatments
Work after cancer
Cancer guide for managers
An excellent document for managers, HR and for employees wishing to better understand what cancer means for them at work. This document is useful to share with line manager if they have not managed someone who has cancer.