5 mins. read

Should I tell my new employer I have had a cancer diagnosis?

Telling a new employer you had cancer Perci Health

Key Takeaways

  • You may feel worried about telling a prospective employer that you have had cancer. However it’s unlawful for them to discriminate against you because of your cancer diagnosis. 
  • You don’t have to tell your employer, but you might choose to. It’s best to take your time weighing up the pros and cons, as well as considering the best time to tell them, should you decide to.

After a diagnosis of cancer can present questions and concerns you might not have thought about during treatment. Once you have adjusted to the phase after treatment, your next focus might be work – either returning to your previous job or finding a new one, which could lead you to wonder whether or not you should tell a prospective or new employer that you had cancer.

Here we look at whether you need to tell prospective or new employers about your cancer history, as well as how to decide when and how to tell them.

Do I need to tell a new employer that I had cancer?

Under UK law, you do not have to tell employers that you have had cancer, however there can be benefits in doing so. 

The thought of making a cancer declaration to a prospective or new employer can feel overwhelming. You may worry that your current employer will think your cancer diagnosis may affect your ability to work. Or you may be concerned about discrimination affecting the decision to employ you.

It can feel really difficult to share something so personal with a new or prospective employer and you may prefer to keep your cancer diagnosis to yourself. Talking about your cancer experience might also bring up emotions and questions you might not feel ready to talk about.

The benefits of telling a new or prospective employer

There are some positives to telling an employer that you have had cancer. From creating an understanding, to offering time off for future check-ups or ongoing treatment, to making adjustments if needed.  It can also explain any gaps in your CV and/or time taken off work during treatment or recovery.

Your employer or prospective employer can help to support you in the workplace.

When should I tell a new or prospective employer that I had cancer?

Cancer is seen as a disability under UK law, with company policies in place to offer practical, emotional, and financial support should it be needed. This means that it is unlawful for an employer or prospective employer to discriminate against or treat you less favourably due to your cancer diagnosis or ongoing treatment. Find out more in our guide to cancer and employment law.

Making the decision to tell a prospective or new employer and finding the right time to do this will be a personal decision. You may find it easier to concentrate on the interview stage before talking about your cancer diagnosis and let them know once you are successful.

What questions can an employer or prospective employer ask about my health?

If you live in England, Scotland and Wales, the Equality Act 2010 details which questions an employer or prospective employer can ask about your health before offering you a job. 

Here are the types of questions they can ask, which can be an advantage for those living with and beyond cancer:

  • Questions which make sure they are not discriminating against anyone in their recruitment process
  • Questions to make sure they hire people from a range of different groups, such as people with disabilities 
  • Questions to find out if you need any reasonable adjustments, for example, holding the interview on the ground floor 
  • Questions to find out if you can carry out a specific task that is essential to the role

They are allowed to ask for information about your health after they have offered you a job, allowing them to make any reasonable adjustments needed. 

If the employer withdraws the job offer, it must be for reasons that are non-discriminatory which would need to be proved.

Beyond these types of questions, prospective employers cannot ask direct questions about your medical history and you do not have to disclose that you have had cancer.

Finding a new job after cancer

Understanding whether a particular job might be suitable for you after cancer might depend on your type of cancer and how the phase beyond treatment has affected you. You may find it helpful to talk to your treatment team, careers advisor or life coach may help you to decide what the next step in your career path could be.

You can see our latest resources and get more guidance from our experts including support for returning to work after cancer by signing up to Perci Health. It’s free to create an account and from the easy-to-use dashboard, you can discover our range of leading cancer professionals.

Our virtual care clinic is designed to help employers support their employees as well as for individuals to access on-demand care whenever they need it. Our employer programme provides employees with access to support from cancer specialists. If you think you could benefit from bespoke guidance and support, you can also find out more about our experts and book online appointments by creating a Perci Health account.