Hunts Community Cancer Network

Returning to work

I would be interested to hear people's experiences (good and bad) of how employers have and are supporting you through your treatment. I was so lucky that I worked for an understanding employer when going through my treatment for breast cancer but I am not sure other people have good support.

Since my treatment, I have now set up a HR consultancy and I am working for myself - it's both scary and exciting but I don't think I would have taken the plunge if I hadn't have seen that life is too short not to give something a go if you really want to.

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My experience was not so good. I don't know if people are aware that when you are having treatment for cancer, and recovering, that your employer needs to work with you to the terms of the Disability Discrimination Act. This means that if you want to work they are obliged to make 'reasonable adjustments' to allow this to happen. This could mean, for example, working flexible hours, adjusting workloads, or working from home if this is feasible and 'a phased return' to work. My experience was that the employer said I had to be 'sick' or work as normal. Occupational health was very supportive and understanding and if this is available I would recommend consulting with them.

It does help if you can plan and put forward possible ways of working yourself e.g. taking into account the times when you are not able to work in the chemo cycle and how you would timetable for this.

You may also feel that post-treatment you would like to work differently and again thinking it through before broaching the subject at work allows you to be calm and measured about what you are able to offer.

There is a publication: Living and Working with cancer, A directory of essential contacts for women.

Happily for me, my manager left the organisation and the new manager was excellent in supporting me to plan and work for several more years.


I know that there is an excellent publication