Getting support at work

Your employer has a legal duty to help you continue with your job or get back to work. They should make changes to make it possible to deal with the effects of cancer and treatment. 

These changes, also called 'reasonable adjustments', may include:

  • Changing your job description to remove tasks which would now be hard for you to achieve
  • Changing or reducing your working hours, or making them more flexible – for example, allowing you to travel to and from work at less busy times, so you can avoid rush hours where you are more likely to be exposed to colds, viruses, and so on
  • Phasing your return to work so you build up your hours gradually
  • Adjusting your performance targets
  • Making alterations to your work environment or workstation
  • Allowing you to work at home some of the time
  • Letting you delegate some of your work
  • Allowing you time off for medical appointments
  • Letting you take an occasional rest at work
  • Arranging telephone conferences to save you travelling
  • Helping with transport to and from work
  • Finding you a parking space nearby
  • Ensuring suitable access if you have to use a wheelchair or crutches
  • Adapting the toilet facilities 
  • Organising extra training or refresher courses for you
  • Asking your colleagues to help with your work when they can.

"Luckily my boss let me work flexible hours and take work home with me. She was really patient and supportive until I was able to work full time again."

If you've taken time off, you might not be able to start again until your employer has made adjustments or organised training for you in the use of new equipment (for example, a computer screen reader).

This should not be recorded as an 'absence from work'. You may be entitled to full pay during the period you are waiting.

Other ways your employers can help

Your employer can also help you to reduce the stress of returning to work:

  1. Ask them whether they offer an Employee Assistance Programme. These are there to help employees deal with personal problems that might impact their work performance, health and wellbeing. If so, it could include a confidential counselling and advice service.
  2. Ask them if you can have a catch-up meeting where you can ask what's been happening while you've been away, and how it might affect you and your work.
  3. Someone at work could agree to be your 'buddy' or mentor, so you can talk to them about any emotional or practical problems caused by your return to work. Make sure you choose someone you won't be embarrassed to discuss personal matters with, and be sure to agree it with them and their manager in advance.
  4. Discuss any other steps you feel would help you to return smoothly.

You might also find it helps to make a few informal or social visits to work to catch up with your colleagues before your first official day back.

Look after yourself

It sounds obvious, but the fitter you are, the better you'll be able to deal with the pressure of returning to work. Make sure you're eating well to boost your energy. 

Listen to your body, notice whether you need a rest after meals, or after a short walk or standing up for a while. You may need to treat yourself gently when you return to work.

Read our tips for looking after yourself on or after treatment.  

When adjustments aren’t possible

In some circumstances, your employer may not be able to make adjustments for you to return to your current role or a similar one. This can be for a number of reasons, for example, if you work in a role that requires set hours and there are no other suitable positions for you.

In this case, your employer may consider terminating your employment. However, they should meet with you beforehand to discuss ways of avoiding this.

Where next?

Updated January 2018, next review due 2019.