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Supporting solicitors with cancer

6 December 2018

The Lawyers with Disabilities Division held a panel discussion on 27 November to discuss what employers and firms can do to support invisible disabilities in the workplace.

The event looked at the varying experiences of members of the profession - both in-house and in private practice - who live with ‘invisible’ or ‘hidden’ disabilities such as dyslexia, visual or hearing impairments and cancer.

Caroline Milton from Macmillan Cancer Support spoke on the panel and offered an overview of the support available to employers and employees who may live or care for someone with cancer.

According to Macmillan only 66% of line managers are aware that cancer is classed as a disability under the Equality Act 2010 (in England, Scotland and Wales) and the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (in Northern Ireland) from the moment of diagnosis.

It is important for the Law Society to raise awareness across the profession so that our members living with cancer feel supported at work.

Below are some of the keys steps you could take to support your employees with cancer at work:

  • Talk to your employee: By taking the time to understand their needs and agreeing on a communication plan you can work to put the right support in place.
  • Be flexible: Explore reasonable adjustments which may help your employee stay in or return to work. Be prepared to review adjustments with your employee as part of the treatment and recovery progress.
  • Make use of Macmillan Cancer Support: : The Macmillan at Work e-newsletter, Macmillan Support Line, Essential work and cancer toolkit and website resources can help you support employees affected by cancer.

Reasonable adjustments

The reasonable adjustments you and your firm can make will always depend on the situation and the individual.

Macmillan provided examples of some of the changes you could discuss with your employee.

  • Give your employee time off to go to medical appointments or for rehabilitation. This may already be covered by your existing policies.
  • Allow them to work more flexible hours. This can help if your employee has fatigue, because it allows them to work when they feel strongest and have the most energy. Flexible hours also mean your employee can avoid travelling at busy times.
  • Make sure they can access the building if they use mobility equipment, such as a wheelchair or crutches. A car parking space closer to the entrance may be helpful. Or you could change where they work, for example by moving them to a ground floor office if they find it difficult to climb stairs. A professional assessment can help with this – get advice from an occupational health adviser.
  • Offer the option to work from home. Home working for one or more days a week has many of the same benefits as flexible hours. It allows your employee to save their energy. Make sure their home has a suitable work environment and that they have the right equipment to do the job. It’s also important to make sure they stay in touch with colleagues and don’t become isolated.

For more information on the support Macmillan can offer or to organise training for your firm, please visit their website or contact workandcancer@macmillan.org.uk.