It is important to understand your legal rights and responsibilities within the workplace.
Under Australian law, cancer is considered a disability. This means you cannot be treated less favourably than other employees because of your breast cancer diagnosis.
If you feel you are being treated less favourably because of your breast cancer diagnosis, it can be classed as discrimination.
Familiarise yourself with the legislation. It is important you know and understand your employment rights and responsibilities.
You can to refer to:
It's important for anyone dealing with a chronic illness to know their rights from the beginning. My employer was fantastic until a change in management. If I had my time again, I would have liked the support to understand my rights. I would have handled things differently.
The Disability Discrimination Act 1992 states that your employer has to make "reasonable adjustments" (changes) for you as a person with a health condition to help you to remain in your job, unless these adjustments do not allow you to carry out the "inherent requirements" of your role.
If your employer knows about your breast cancer diagnosis, you can suggest reasonable adjustments to help you continue to or return to work. For example, you could request time off for hospital appointments or suggest flexible working arrangements during treatment and recovery.
You are not obliged to disclose your breast cancer diagnosis to your employer. However, if you don’t, they will not need to make reasonable adjustments to your working situation. Withholding this information can cause issues later during your treatment as you could be questioned for your absences.
For further information about the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 visit the Australian Human Rights Commission.
Under the Fair Work Act 2009, the National Employment Standards (NES) give you the right to ask for flexible working arrangements if you have at least 12 months of continuous service with your employer.
These arrangements may include:
Your employer cannot dismiss you because you have taken time off for your treatment or recovery. You will need to produce a medical certificate and ensure your absence is less than three months or less than a total of three months within a 12-month period.
For more information about flexible working arrangements, visit the Fair Work Ombudsman.
The Privacy Act 1988 regulates how personal information is handled and shared within the workplace.
It is against the law for your employer to share personal information about your diagnosis without your permission. It is your decision how and with whom you share your diagnosis in your workplace.
If at any time you feel your health information has been shared without your consent, speak to your employer or you can find more information from the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner.
The following BCNA resources are available:
Visit My Journey, BCNA’s online tool for information tailored to your diagnosis.
Join our Online Network if you think that talking to others online and sharing experiences will help.
Contact BCNA’s Helpline on 1800 500 258 between 9.00 am and 5.00 pm AEST Monday to Friday, for information about the services and support that may be available for you and your family.
You can also:
Check your rights with the Fair Work Ombudsman.
Raise a privacy concern with the Office of the Australia Information Commissioner.
Raise concerns about discrimination because of cancer diagnosis with the Australian Human Rights Commission – phone 1300 656 419.
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*This article does not provide medical advice and is intended for informational purposes only.
Please consult a medical professional or healthcare provider if you're seeking medical advice, diagnoses, or treatment.