So, you have an underperforming employee and you are part way through your performance management procedure when they tell you that they have just been diagnosed with cancer.

You are understandably shocked and sensitive to their situation but what do you do?

Any employee who is diagnosed with cancer is immediately protected by disability discrimination legislation.

This means your first response is to halt the formal proceedings.

This is partly due to their enhanced legal protection but more so, you don’t know what effect their health and diagnosis has had on their performance.

You are now looking at a situation of capability that is potentially influenced by their health.

In the first instance have a chat with the individual to discuss what they know about their diagnosis and its immediate impact on their ability to work. This is also a good time to inform them that your formal proceedings have been put on hold.

Discuss with them any support options or reasonable adjustments that you can put in place.

It would be a good idea to obtain a medical report for further advice on support at work and the impact of the diagnosis and treatment on the employee’s performance.

Given the employee’s circumstances, see if you can deal with your performance concerns on an informal basis or through a supportive development plan moving forward.

You don’t want to be “penalising” in this situation as continuing a formal performance management process just doesn’t sit right and could be viewed as discriminatory in the context of this situation.

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