There are several ways you can support an employee who has received an incurable illness diagnosis or is living with a long-term health condition.

Find out what rights at work your employee has

If someone is diagnosed with an incurable illness, they are likely to be considered disabled. As a result, they will have certain additional rights under the Equality Act 2010 at work.

  • They won’t have to tell you about their terminal illness, unless they have a professional requirement to do so.
  • As an employer, if your employee talks to you about their diagnosis, you are required to consider reasonable adjustments to accommodate their needs at work, such as working from home, time off for treatment, adjusting their workstation.
  • You cannot make your employee redundant because of their illness; nor can you force them to resign or retire.

Check your company policies and the law, paying particular attention to:

  • Statutory Sick Pay (SSP): £109.40 per week (2023–24) that is paid for up to 28 weeks to someone who is too ill to work. It will be paid in the same way as your employee's normal wages with tax and National Insurance deducted.
  • Sick pay scheme (or 'occupational scheme'): check if your company provides this.
  • Your workplace pension scheme
  • Your life insurance

The more familiar you are with this information, the better you will be able to support your employee when you discuss their practical options.

Find out what other support there might be for your employee

Does your workplace have an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) to help employees deal with personal issues that might affect their psychological health and wellbeing? If so, you might want to remind your employee about its existence and remind them that an EAP is independent and confidential.

If your employee finds they are working fewer hours or even having to stop work because of their diagnosis, there are benefits that are potentially available to them. While they are responsible for claiming these, you might want to point them in the direction of the following:

  • New Style Employment and Support Allowance (New Style ESA)
  • Universal Credit
  • Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit (IIDB).

You can find out more about each of these benefits in our article Your rights and benefits at work following an incurable illness diagnosis.

Talk to your employees about what they need from you

This is an important step as it will help guide you with future support. Some people prefer to continue working as normally as their illness will allow them and not necessarily want to talk about it; others might want to change the way they work, such as working more from home, and may also want to discuss their situation with you regularly.

Check if they would like you to talk to colleagues on their behalf or if they are happy to do this themselves.

Ask them, too, if they would like to be contacted by you if there are periods when they are off work. They might like to be kept abreast of what’s happening in the workplace.

Create an agreed plan

Once you’ve been able to spend time with your employee and have discussed their options, write up an agreed plan, which will include when you’ll review their needs and workload.

Find out more

Related pages

  • Supporting a bereaved employee: there are two very important things you can do to support bereaved employees: create a culture where it’s okay to talk about bereavement and offer practical support.
  • When a member of staff dies: when a colleague dies, think about how you will support the family of the employee who has died, as well as other colleagues.
  • Looking after yourself: advice for looking after both yourself and others following the death of someone important to you.

The EPiC Resource Centre is kindly sponsored by Cleenol: working for a cleaner, safer, kinder world.