Father claims he was ‘sacked’ from job while awaiting cancer operation

Father to one, now in remission, vows to support other cancer sufferers after claiming unfair dismissal when he was seriously ill

Nathan Sandhu
Tuesday 06 August 2019 21:50 BST
Mike Ash hopes to make a difference to other cancer sufferers by going public with his claims
Mike Ash hopes to make a difference to other cancer sufferers by going public with his claims (SWNS)

A father-of-one claims he was discriminated against for having cancer after being 'sacked' while awaiting a crucial operation.

Mark Ash, 34, says he was dismissed from his role in March 2016 as he waited for a potentially life-saving stem cell transplant to help rid him of blood cancer.

He had worked at a prison, which he does not wish to name, for eight years before being diagnosed with stage four Hodgkin’s lymphoma in March 2015, aged 30.

Mr Ash, a former programmes facilitator, claims prison bosses asked him to sign medical retirement forms the day following his first round of chemotherapy, a request that he says he declined.

After his fourth course, his former employer called him into a work capability hearing in June 2015 and allegedly offered him an ultimatum to either work from home or face dismissal.

Mr Ash, who is a single dad of a nine-year-old son, was due to go back to work full-time following gradual return. But in January 2016 he was told the cancer had returned for the second time in less than a year.

This time he was given just a 50/50 chance of survival by professionals and told he would need three rounds of “intense” chemotherapy in preparation for a stem cell transplant.

However, no specific date was set for the life-saving operation and Mark says he was told it may take six months to recover when it arrived.

Prison bosses then allegedly informed Mr Ash, who lives in Hessle near Hull, that he was to be dismissed from his post in March 2016.

Confident he was discriminated against from the outset and determined to ensure other cancer sufferers do not undergo a similar experience, Mr Ash has now gone public.

He said: “I think I was discriminated against from the start. I feel like from the outset there were elements of discrimination.

“I was just concentrating on my treatment, I was having chemo every two weeks.

“When I was told the cancer had returned I was an emotional wreck to be honest.

"I did think about death when I was re-diagnosed and thought about my son growing up without me.

“With the transplant I was told it could take up to six months for me to recover but my employer told me if I couldn’t give an exact date they would dismiss me.

“The way I was treated by my employer at the time was disappointing, this was the biggest fight of my life and I just wanted someone to go ‘don’t worry, we will look after you.

“To have that on top of being rediagnosed was a further strain and did not sit right with me. It was quite devastating especially because I had put in the service I had over the years.”

Mr Ash challenged his bosses' decision but first had to undergo the stem cell transplant after being given a date in April 2016.

During the potentially life-saving procedure, an appeal hearing ruled in his former employer's favour.

He began a claim for unfair dismissal through The Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas) after no agreement was reached.

But Mark, who began working at the prison in May 2007, had just three months to file the claim and missed the deadline because he was so ill.

He was given the all-clear in August 2016 and has since moved into agency work before securing his current job role.

Alex Trebek on how his cancer treatment makes him often have 'surges of deep, deep sadness, and it brings tears to my eyes'

Now Mr Ash has made it his duty to ensure others battling cancer are supported in the workplace, prompting him to contact his MP Emma Hardy who is now vowing to raise awareness of his plight.

“I’m really positive about life now because I have moved on from it,” he said. “I accept my fight has gone.

“What I’m trying to do now alongside my local MP is to try to get the law changed so people going through similar have longer.

“I’ve stated several times that employers have rights but it’s when someone is in a vulnerable position and they feel they have been treated unjustly.

“It could lead to losing their homes, the impact could be massive. To be honest, the main impact on me was I had to rebuild my career.

“Cancer doesn’t discriminate and anyone can be affected by it.”


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