Legal rights and responsibilities
It is important to understand your legal rights and responsibilities as an employer. Under Australian law, cancer is considered a disability, therefore, your employee cannot be treated less favourably because of their breast cancer diagnosis.
If your employee feels they are being treated less favourably because of their breast cancer diagnosis, it can be classed as discrimination.
The following legislation is in place to protect both employees and employers:
Familiarise yourself with the legislation – it is important you know and understand your rights and responsibilities as an employer.
The Disability Discrimination Act 1992
The Disability Discrimination Act 1992 states that as an employer, you are required to make 'reasonable adjustments' (changes) for an employee with a health condition, to help them remain in their job, unless these adjustments do not allow them to carry out the ‘inherent requirements’ of their job.
Reasonable adjustments can include time off for hospital appointments or flexible working arrangements during their treatment and recovery.
For further information about the Disability Discrimination Act 1992, visit the Australian Human Rights Commission website.
The Fair Work Act 2009
Under the Fair Work Act 2009, the National Employment Standards (NES) gives an employee the right to ask for flexible working arrangements if they have at least 12 months of continuous service.
These arrangements can include:
- working from home
- working from another office/worksite
- changes to start, finish or break times
- varying hours, working part-time or job-sharing.
You cannot dismiss your employee because they have taken time off for their treatment or recovery. However, they will need to produce a medical certificate and ensure their absence is less than three months, or less than a total of three months within a 12-month period.
For further information about flexible working arrangements visit fairwork.org.au.
The Privacy Act 1988
The Privacy Act 1988 regulates how personal information is handled and shared within the workplace. It is against the law for you to share personal information about your employee’s diagnosis without their permission. It is your employee’s decision how and with whom they share their diagnosis.
For further information about privacy in the workplace, visit the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner website.
For further information, the following resources are available:
- BCNA's Tips for managers of people diagnosed with breast cancer to learn how to support your employee.
- BCNA's Legal rights and responsibilities – for employers to become familiar with your rights and responsibilities as an employer of a person with a serious illness.
- For information to support the employment of people with cancer contact JobAccess 1800 464 800 or visit the JobAccess website.