My Ovacome

Occupational Health Assessment

Has anyone been through this process on their return to work ?im not sure I’m even ready to return having finished chemo at the end of Nov for recurrent ovarian cancer and with its potential return looming on the horizon......

But my employee is hassling me.

Does it start with an interview and then proceed to them requesting a medical report ?

I don’t think my employer has got the process quite right and I don’t know where to get advice ?

9 Replies

I had regular meet ups with my manager and a lady from HR during my absence to assess where I was up to with the various stages of the diagnosis, surgery and chemo. I was never put under any pressure to go back to work before I was both ready and, most importantly, before my immune system returned to normal as I met lots of patients daily and couldn’t risk catching anything.

You could speak to your Macmillan nurses who have the expertise to advise you on your rights and also the HR department where you work. Citizens advise are also useful for advice. I had to meet up with our occupational health doctor before I was allowed to go back, he wrote to Christies for an up to date report on my health, I was then allowed back on a phased return. I had been off nearly 12 months though as I had other issues alongside the cancer which had hospitalised me more than once.

You really need to get you energy levels back up and also check your immune system is ok before you go back, maybe your oncology team could advise if they believe you're ready and if they don’t they could intervene on your behalf with your employer.

There should be something in your contract of employment that covers the absence policies your employer has in place and your boss should be able to discuss this with you in full so you are able to formulate a plan of action that is acceptable to you both.

I suspect from what you’ve said that you feel you’re not ready yet, so please don’t be pushed into something you’re not ready for yet.

Take lots of care and take it steady when you do go back to work ❤️Xx Jane


Hi - your employer should have an absence policy that sets out how they deal with long term absence and return to work. You should ask your HR department for a copy.

I went back to work for two mornings about a month after I finished treatment. It was my choice because I wanted to do something normal but as soon as I was there, more was expected of me.

I went to occupational health, I wanted to go back to work but I also wanted to protect myself but the doctor I saw was only interested in getting me back to work and didn’t ask what stage or grade of cancer I had or what treatment.

They said I should go back but with someone monitoring my work load, that hasn’t happened because everyone is so busy.

So I would say, don’t be pressured to go back. Your employer might be hassling you because they want to know what to arrange in terms of cover - speak to your CNS, and hold out for whatever he/she advises. The occ health doctor will not be a specialist so you will know far more than they do.

Good luck xx

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Hi there ...

After a recurrence, I’m amazed you’re actually going back to work, let alone so soon.

Don’t feel hassled at all. If I were you (which I’m not), I’d speak to my GP for advice. The question of getting infections so soon after chemo has been mentioned and also you will get very tired. These things are difficult in themselves but you also have the emotional costs of having the disease and its treatments.

The main point of an Occupational Health interview is to assess you and to see how you can get back into the workplace. They might suggest adjustments or, say, a phased return. The Occupational Health assessment is for your employer’s purposes and it doesn’t mean to say that the assessor has a real knowledge or understanding of your condition. Your employer may ask you for permission to contact your GP. A friend of mine gave permission for GP contact which she regrets giving (I don’t know why) and then was assessed by a nurse who was difficult. I can see the situation from an employer’s viewpoint but you are going through a serious illness and need support.

Maybe someone here could give you technical advice. MacMillan might be a good place to start.

I suppose it comes down to how you feel yourself and whether you could cope with work.


Sue xxx

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Don’t let anyone pressure you to do or not do anything you don’t want to.

On first line, I took six months off. I was paid full money which was very handy.

I had recurrence eight months after first line and so I now have chemo again every three weeks like before. I have chemo on a Thursday and I go to work Friday then have the next week off then back to work again. My employers are very good. I’m very lucky.

The last thing you need with this wretched disease is any more stress. They should understand that. Hugs. Xxxx

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Hi, I had to go through a back to work interview, within weeks of my chemo finished, it wasn’t very professional, I think they’d printed off a form from the internet as none of it was relevant to my situation but they said they had to follow procedures and tick boxes. It could be beneficial to you as they should ask what they can do for you to make your day more comfortable. Maybe a quiet place to go to rest if you get over tired. You can find out what it entails online.


Hi I had to have an interview with an occupational health advisor last year, I hadn’t even finished treatment. She came to the house asked me a couple of questions and then wrote to my employer.

The report stated I was not capable to return to work , and that when I did it would need to be on a phased return. Also she projected a lot of abcences due to side effects from treatment and the high risk of recurrence.

Hugs Ellsey xx


I have been through this process three times now. I work for a higher education institution, and the protocol for returning to work after a long term absence for illness is set out explicitly in writing. If your employer has something similar, print it off and comb through it carefully. Do you have a trade union rep you can talk to? In my case, in each instance, I took off 6 months for treatment, and then a few weeks to get the return to work business sorted. I couldn't return to work until I had been seen by the occupational health doctor, who interviewed me, wrote a report, and sent it to my line manager. I have found all occy health doctors very sympathetic types, but they are often freelancers who don't work for the institution and therefore don't have a vested interest. I have had a phased return each time, over varying periods of time. One big change last time round was that if I failed to return to full hours after the agreed period of time, the institution could reduce my salary accordingly (there had been a rule change to this effect since my previous time off). However, the institution hasn't enforced this, partly due to the wonderful report written by the doctor, who basically sang my praises for wanting to return to work after such a gruelling time, and partly (I suspect) because the powers that be do not want to be seen to be penalising a long term employee with cancer. In each instance, I have not even attempted to return to work until I felt ready. Other things have to be factored in, of course, such as financial pressures. Contact with an employer while off for treatment was something I avoided, as I knew it might lead to pressure being put on me to return.


Thank you so much for your responses!

The problem I have is that I work for a small company of 15 (pharmaceuticals – you would expect them to be more compassionate wouldn’t you!)

So we have no procedures for this (I’m the first employee to be off long term sick)

And the director is my boss - so all of this is very close to home, not like it would be in a big company.

I have contacted ACAS and Macmillan who, together with you guys, have been great.

Another Q – so if the occupational health assessor advises reduced days per week or reduced hours per day – is my pay adjusted accordingly?

Im in no rush to go back and my employer does seem to be pushing for my return. My GP is happy to sign me off for as long as I want.


As your company is so small, they doubtless have a dedicated HR person. How about you borrow a couple of handbooks from friends who work for larger organisations, so you can get a feel for how these things work.

Although your company may want you to return to work quickly, this could well be counter-productive if you then have to go off-sick unnecessarily. A phased return is likely to work much better.

There are other matters you need to consider, as well as pay, such as any effects on your pension.

I don’t think your company would want to fall foul if the law or cause you unnecessary distress. I’d suggest you arm yourself with as much information as you can before requesting a meeting. Does the company secretary take on the HR role?


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