You may find that, because of your cancer treatment and recovery, you need to reduce your working hours or take several weeks or months off work.

According to the law, you don’t need to tell your employer that you have cancer, but if you do they may be able to make adjustments to your workplace or conditions to allow you to continue working during your treatment or ease your return to work afterwards.

Taking time off work

If you need to take time off work because of your cancer, you may be eligible to receive Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) for up to 28 weeks within a three year period. Your employer may also have their own sick leave policy – ask your manager or HR department for this.

As your sick leave period comes to an end, it is worth talking to your employer about your options. You may be able to get your sick leave period extended, take unpaid leave or use some of your holiday allowance. If you still can’t work after 28 weeks, you can apply for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA).

Adjustments at work

You may not think of yourself as being ‘disabled’, but as someone diagnosed with cancer you are classed as disabled under the Equality Act, which means you are protected by it. This means your employer has a duty to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ to features of your workplace or working practices that put you at a substantial disadvantage to people who are not disabled.

Reasonable adjustments could include things like changing your job description or working hours to make things more manageable, making changes to your workstation, allowing time off for medical appointments or finding you a parking spot nearby.

Applying for a new job

If you are applying for a job at a new organisation, you may prefer not to tell them about your cancer too early in the process, in case it puts you at a disadvantage compared with other applicants. Your potential employers are not allowed to ask you any health related questions before making an offer of employment, unless it specifically relates to your ability to do the job.

Coping with your emotions

Taking time off work, preparing for your return, and dealing with being back in the workplace can all lead to worry and stress. It is important to take care of yourself during this time. You may wish to try meditation, yoga or complementary therapies to help you relax.

It may also be helpful to talk about how you are feeling with your CLIC Sargent care professional, or ask your GP surgery if they can refer you for counselling.

August 2011, next planned review 2013