The Disability Discrimination Act and cancer | Cancer Research UK
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The Disability Discrimination Act and cancer

Am I covered by the Disability Discrimination Act if I have cancer?

Yes, the Disability Discrimination Act (now the Equality Act) covers you if you have cancer. The following links take you to sections about


About the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) and Equality Act (EA)

The Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) was originally written in 1995 and was last updated in December 2005. This Act was in place to end discrimination against disabled people. It aimed to make sure people aren’t treated differently or less well because they have a disability. 

In 2010, the Equality Act replaced previous anti discrimination laws, combining them under one piece of legislation. This includes the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA). The Disability Equality Duty in the DDA continues to apply. This Act applies to people with cancer or those who have had cancer in the past. All cancers are included. And you are protected by the Act from the time you are diagnosed with cancer.


What the Equality Act means for people with cancer

The Equality Act considers a diagnosis of cancer as a disability. You don’t have to have symptoms or to consider yourself to be disabled by your cancer to be covered. But the Act gives you important rights. These rights might affect

Your work

These rights mean that you can negotiate for reasonable changes in your work or workplace. The term reasonable means that any changes or adaptations must be practical for your employer, in terms of cost and effects on other workers.

For example, if you need time off work for treatment and recovery your employer might allow you a period of leave and your job will still be there when you want to go back. Or it might be reasonable to have more flexible working hours so you can carry on working. And the Act also gives you legal protection if you feel your employer has treated you unfairly.

You don’t have to tell your employer you have cancer. But if you don’t tell them, they can’t make any changes to your job or workplace. You can ask your employer to keep the information confidential so only people you agree to have this information are told.

Your education

People involved in your education should not treat you less well because you have cancer. An example of this might be your college making sure you get notes from lectures you miss due to having treatment.

How you use services

Providers of any services you might use have to make sure that you can use them in the same way as people without a disability. Examples of this are supermarkets giving you help when you are shopping. Or shops making changes to their buildings so that it’s easier for you to get around them if you have problems walking.

There are special rules about insurance in the Equality Act. For example, life insurance, health insurance or car insurance companies have to use reliable medical information and look at all the relevant factors when you apply for insurance. If you have a type of cancer which statistics show is either curable or manageable, it might be against the law for the life insurance company to refuse you insurance or charge you a higher premium. This might mean that insurers need to ask your doctor for more detailed information about your condition.

Your housing needs

One example of the rights you have under the Equality Act is that landlords can’t refuse to let a property to you because you have a disability.


If you are discriminated against

If you feel you have been discriminated against because of having cancer there are a number of ways of dealing with it. It is always best to start with talking to the person involved about your concerns. This might be your employer, tutor or landlord. It helps to keep a record of what happened and when it happened. If the problem is with your employer you could speak with your union or human resources officer. Also your local Jobcentre Plus Office will have information about a scheme called Access to Work that can help with making changes at your place of work.

If you aren’t able to resolve the problem by discussion, you can also get advice from the Citizens Advice Bureau

Some people who can’t resolve the problem may want to go further and take legal action. Before you do this, it is important that you take advice and gain as much information as you can. Sources of advice are listed below. You will need to think about the cost, because taking legal action can be very expensive. Most people are able to resolve problems without taking any legal action.


Further help and information

To learn more about the Equality Act and your rights, you can contact

And we have information about some of the practical aspects of coping with cancer.

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Updated: 4 February 2015