Employee with kidney cancer found to have been constructively dismissed

A general manager with kidney cancer who was told by his manager not to be a “baby” and to “grow up” when he requested to work fewer hours, was discriminated against by his employer because of his disability. The employment tribunal found that the employee was “treated in a disrespectful and demeaning way” and was asked to take on more work than he could handle.

In June 2016, he was signed off sick, and then diagnosed with kidney cancer. It was agreed that on his return he would have a slightly reduced work pattern for two weeks followed by a third week full time. However, when he did go back to work the claimant struggled to cope with the workload, which was particularly busy over Christmas and was then criticised for not attending a staff function at Christmas.

The claimant was declared cancer free in February 2017 and returned to work full time. However, a year later the cancer had spread to his stomach and that the prognosis was poor.  He had been working away from home and at weekends and emailed his manager to ask if adjustments could be made.  He was told that attempts would be made to minimise stress but that Pointon he “needed to take on the responsibilities of his role as much as could” but this did not happen in reality.  After further pleas, the employee was told not to be a “baby” and to “grow up”. He was signed off sick and when his employer failed to notify him that his Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) was coming to an end and did not provide him the form he needed to seek ongoing benefits until 10 days after his SSP ended, the employee felt that he had no choice but to resign. 

The judge ruled that the reduction in work was “not sufficient nor consistently applied” and that the employer’s behaviour “fell well below what would have been acceptable in any workplace” and was “an act of harassment”.

Claims for unfair constructive dismissal, disability discrimination, failure to make reasonable adjustments and harassment succeeded. A further hearing will determine the award which is expected to be considerable. This is a further reminder that cancer treatment is in itself a disability and employees going through treatment for cancer should be treated very sensitively. 


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