Taking time off

Your employer should give you time off for treatment and hospital appointments. You do not necessarily have a right to paid time off though. Try to give your employer as much warning as possible if you need extra time off, and discuss flexible working with them.

If you're not sure how your treatment will affect your ability to work, talk to the health professionals looking after you. This could help you decide what to do about work before you make any firm plans.

They may also be able to provide you with a letter outlining your cancer and treatment, which you can give to your employer. As treatment can affect people differently, advice or information may be quite general, especially if you're at the start of treatment.

"I couldn't keep up because I got so tired. I just had to stop work altogether."

Getting time off work

As soon as you know you're going to take time off work, talk to your manager or employer so that they're completely up-to-date with what's happening.

Your employer should look after your wellbeing by managing sick leave (planned or not) and helping you plan your return to work.

Ask your manager or Human Resources (HR) department for a copy of your organisation's sick leave policy. Some organisations have a specific cancer policy, so it’s worth checking.

Keeping your employer in the loop

Most employers will do their best to change your duties or working hours so that you can carry on working if you want to, or so that you can get back to work as soon as possible.

However, others may lack the experience of helping an employee through cancer, so you will need to explain very clearly what you need.

If possible, arrange to meet with your employer so you can work together to plan your time off and decide what's best for you. Or if you are not well enough to meet them, try to maintain regular contact by phone.

Getting a doctor's note

If you continue to work throughout your treatment, but have to take more than seven calendar days off at any stage, remember to ask your GP for a fit note for the time you've been off work. Check the specific procedure for submitting doctor's notes with your manager or HR department.

If you've had to stay in hospital, ask the doctor or nurse for a statement to cover the time you've been there. You'll need these if you want to claim benefits.

Your GP or hospital doctor may say in the fit note that you're fine to work subject to certain circumstances (for example, a reduction in the number of hours you work or that you work from home). It will be up to your employer to decide whether your job can accommodate these changes. 

Your boss may also ask you to fill in a form when you return to work to confirm that you've been off sick for more than four days in a row. This is called 'self-certification'. 

Where next?

Updated January 2018, next review due 2019.