Question asked by: 
Fumi, 24
Date asked: 
Nov 2014

I completed my degree last summer, around the same time that I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Having finished treatment a while ago, I now feel ready to apply for jobs. Should I declare my cancer on my application form or wait until the interview? Do I have to tell them at all? What are the benefits and drawbacks?

Should I declare my cancer on a job application form?
Check the legal implications.
Response by Dr Sara Stoneham

There may be legal aspects of this to be aware of, so I’d suggest contacting Clic Sargent or Macmillan Cancer Support as they may be able to offer advice.

Once you find a job, I’d suggest it would be helpful to explain your medical history to your employer’s occupational health team, so they can support your needs and understand if you need to take time off for appointments.

You may also want to discuss things with your new manager, especially if you require time off work for follow up appointments or scans.

An employer can only lawfully ask about your health once they have decided to offer you a job.
Response by Alison Craven

Having had a diagnosis of ovarian cancer, you are protected under the Equality Act 2010. It is unlawful for employers to ask applicants about their medical conditions, throughout the application and interview process.

An employer can only lawfully ask about your health once they have decided to offer you a job.

This means you do not have to tell your prospective employers anything about your illness or treatment until you are actually offered a job. If your employer finds out about your illness and decides not to offer you a job, this can be the basis of a discrimination claim to the employment tribunal.

However, you may actually find it is beneficial to tell prospective employers about your experience. Most employers are likely to be sympathetic and may be impressed to learn that you have had to cope with something so significant at such a young age, but have still managed to move forward with your life and get a degree.

It can be useful for prospective employers to be aware of your situation if you are suffering from side-effects from any on-going treatments, or simply to explain that you will need to attend follow-up appointments. This type of conversation is best undertaken in person.