WHEN solicitor Rada Kemp was diagnosed with aggressive breast cancer and had
to take time off work for treatment she didn’t think it would be a problem.
She had started working for Trowers & Hamlins solicitors in Manchester in
September 2004 and was diagnosed 15 months later with cancer.
She underwent an operation to remove the lump in her right breast, then she
underwent a gruelling five months of chemotherapy treatment, then had more
surgery the following month to see if the cancer had spread, followed by
She finally finished her treatment in September 2005 - ten months after her original
diagnosis - and two weeks later, in October, went back to work.
But after witnessing emails sent between the partners of the firm, which discussed
the quality of her work and her absences from the office whilst she was undergoing
treatment, Miss Kemp has resigned from the firm.
She is taking them to an employment tribunal on the grounds of constructive unfair
dismissal and disability discrimination.
Since starting proceedings, the firm has provided copies of further emails, one of
which discussed getting rid of her just seven weeks after she was signed off work.
Miss Kemp, 41, who is single and lives in Manchester, said: ‘I was so shocked when
I read the email which discussed getting rid of me so soon after being signed off for
‘I know if I hadn’t had breast cancer then I would have been able to achieve more for
the firm - but I had to have the time off for treatment to save my life.
‘I desperately didn’t want to let the firm down, despite trying to battle through breast
cancer. I went back to work two weeks after finishing my treatment.
‘The message I want to get across is you shouldn’t write people off just because they
are diagnosed with cancer, which is why I’m taking this action.’
Miss Kemp, who has been qualified as an employment solicitor for 12 years, started
at the firm in September 2004 to set up an employment department in their
After a six month probationary period, the firm backdated her salary increase as
arranged and subsequently increased her salary by six percent, which she says,
suggested they were happy with the work she was producing.
But in June 2005, just nine months after starting her position, Miss Kemp discovered
a lump in her right breast.
She said: ‘My GP didn’t think it was anything to worry about as I was so young with
no family history of breast cancer.
‘But he referred me to the local breast clinic and they wanted to carry out a biopsy.
The first date they gave me I couldn’t make as I was working at a tribunal in
Miss Kemp eventually had a biopsy performed privately at the Bupa Hospital (now
Spire Hospital) in Manchester in December 2005 and the results came back that it
was breast cancer.
She said: ‘I was really scared. I went back to work and I was crying at my desk and
my colleagues were really supportive when I told them that I had just been
diagnosed with breast cancer.
‘I had the operation to remove the lump a few days later, and four days later I came
back to work. My arm was really sore and difficult to move, but I didn’t want to let the
Miss Kemp had to have further time off work when she started her chemotherapy
treatment in February 2006 at the Christie Hospital in Manchester. Her hair fell out
and she felt constantly exhausted.
She said: ‘I tried to work through my chemotherapy treatment, but by May that year,
when I had been having chemotherapy for nearly three months, I had to be signed
off sick because I found the treatment so exhausting.’
Miss Kemp then had to have another operation in July 2006 where surgeons
removed her lymph nodes to see if the cancer had spread, which thankfully it hadnt.
Then she underwent further radiotherapy treatment which finished in September that
Two weeks later, in October, she returned to work.
She said: ‘I was worried about the length of time I had been away from work, as the
department was new and just starting up.
‘But I had breast cancer, and I had no choice but to be off work to have treatment.’
After her return to work, Miss Kemp said she received criticism about her work,
which was unnecessary, and she saw emails in which her work was criticised.
She said: ‘The emails criticised me taking a holiday so soon after returning from
sickness absence and questioned my absence from the office even though I was
continuing to have ongoing hospital appointments.
Since starting her tribunal claim further emails have come to light. One of them, sent
between two of the firm’s partners in July 2006 when she had been off having
treatment, discussed getting rid of her.
It said: ‘I am not sure about the message that it would send out to staff if we got rid of
someone when they had cancer but as things stand, Rada’s long term involvement
with us has to be in doubt and we could soon find ourselves in a position that having
lost so much ground from her absence we were starting from scratch.’
Miss Kemp said: ‘I was so shocked when I read these emails and extremely
distressed. It felt like I was being persecuted for having breast cancer.’
Miss Kemp resigned from the firm in March 2008, and is now taking them to an
employment triibunal, scheduled for 12th Jaunary 2009. Trowers & Hamlins won law
firm of the year in 2007, and are have advised Cancer Partners UK on a partnership
with Spire Healthcare to provide dedicated cancer centres.
She is claiming constructive unfair dismissal, as she says the firm put her in a
position where she had to resign, and disability discrimination after she was
diagnosed with breast cancer.
Miss Kemp, who has since set up her own business Workplace Legal Solutions,
said: ‘I find it extremely galling that the firm are cashing in on advising on such a high
profile deal, having treated me so badly after my diagnosis.
‘I was worried that I’d let the firm down by having four and a half months off for
having cancer treatment myself, but now I feel extremely let down by them, and that
is why I have decided to take this action against them.
‘I want to get this message across that people can’t be written off just because they
are fighting cancer. It is not the death sentence that it used to be. Many cancer
patients can and do go back to work and lead productive working lives.’