Barrister & Company Secretary Caroline BuchanChambers of Miss C Buchan
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Breast Cancer Awareness month

Breast Cancer Awareness month
Autumn with its heavier skies and the heavy sweet fruit on the trees is my favourite time to be in Sussex as the evenings draw in and you begin to get that leafy, illegal bonfire aroma as you walk outside kicking the leaves and almost break your back on the abundance of acorns and conkers on the pathways. Keats would have said that better than I. With the frightening slide down to Christmas which comes all too quickly every year there are plenty of opportunities for cosy get-togethers in spooky costumes if the mood or the children take you, apple bobbing, standing around bonfires with a juicy hotdog watching the Pope get his comeuppance if you live in Lewes, or firework spectacles to rival China's, drink gallons of mulled wine, eat turkey or just curl up in front of the television.
It's a slightly melancholy autumn because it is drawing closer to the first anniversary of the death of my Father. I keep thinking of him ambling back from the Village with his newspaper and stories of who he'd talked to or in the garden and find amazing he was here just last year doing those things and planning for retirement and now here I am completing his final tax return for the 31st October deadline.
On the positive side my sister has taken to raising money for Diabetes UK and the Stroke Association and we have tapped into a really friendly, bubbly group for free walks aptly called Healthy Walks organised and chaperoned by the Mid Sussex District Council; if you have a dog so much the better. It is great that the Government give money to incentives like this to keep us all fit and happy. There are walks virtually every day. 
One thing my Father pointed out when we were defiantly resisting what was in front of us was that "Life isn't fair". It's a well worn phrase and true. Recently a girl from the year above me at school passed away after battling melanoma at St. Catherine's Hospice leaving a young family and now it appears that my best friend (the second friend in 18 months and both comparatively young) has breast cancer which with any luck will be operable. In her usual upbeat way she has asked me to write this short piece to raise awareness not simply as a reminder that women should be regularly checking for changes but also to flag up employment rights for those with cancer because of course cancer is classed as a disability under the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 and falls under the Equality Act 2010 if you are employed personally to provide services.
October seems to be a designated month for a couple of quite important causes and Breast Cancer Awareness month seems to be one of the most important ones. My friend told me that 1 woman every 10 minutes is told she has breast cancer. That's quite a statistic and almost as surprising as three babies being born every second. In essence, and of course everyone's circumstances will be unique and need to be advised upon individually, an employee with cancer may have a claim for disability-related discrimination if not treated in the same way as an employee without a disability and for direct discrimination if the employer's decisions are "tainted" by the disability. A claim might be made if an employer discriminates indirectly unless there is a fair and balanced reason, directly discriminates and harasses because the employee is wrongly thought to be disabled or is associated with a disabled person or victimises anyone. 
An employer must consider and where at all possible make "reasonable adjustments" which might include changing working hours, practices, some physical aspect of the workplace or providing extra help or equipment. Inevitably time off work for an operation, any radiotherapy and chemotherapy and recovery time follows and the employer is bound to try to make reasonable adjustments where to do so would not destroy the essence of the job role or be prohibitively expensive and disproportionate in terms of the business. Whether that adjustment would have made a difference will go to any remedy claimed assessed on a case by case basis.
Agency Workers Regulations which came into force on 1st October give agency workers the same right to equal treatment and the same basic rights as if they were recruited directly as full-time employees after only 12 weeks. If the worker was in work before 1st October the Regulations will only apply from that date and the agency worker is only entitled to basic rights means no sick pay. Presumably the expectation that an employer make "reasonable adjustment" will be valid.
I also wanted to flag up that on 20th October it was Mediation Day although it went by with little fanfare except in the Alternative Dispute Resolution field or Appropriate Dispute Resolution field as some prefer to call it. Where employment issues become difficult mediation in particular is a proven way to help parties resolve disputes with as little acrimony as possible and generally courts want to know that mediation has been attempted before taking up valuable and expensive court time. We live in the real world and recognise some disputes are too difficult and that it may seem foolhardy to even raise your head above the parapet. This evening I listened to a lucid webinar as part of a week long series on dispute resolution, its theme: "Happiness, Conflict and Social Networking" and imagine… creative, resilient and forgiving people tend to be happier and happy people tend not to get drawn into downward spirals of conflict and it follows are less likely to be litigious. Equally it is said that positive people can see off illness better too.      
Let's not dress it up. Life is tough and we have to pick our battles wisely and although what I have written stems from sadness I hope it has a positive twist and is a timely reminder to have regular medical checks where appropriate, complete your paper tax return if not doing it online, stand up for your rights but where you can save your emotional energy, time and costs settle your disputes and make the most of this delicious season.
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