Dealing with work when you have cancer

You have no legal obligation to tell your employer about your life outside work. However, it is probably a good idea to let your supervisor or HR manager know. That way you won’t have to keep making excuses when you have to attend appointments, are having a bad day or need to take time off for treatment.

Not everyone needs to know everything, but you may be surprised at how supportive your workmates will be when you tell them about your cancer.

If you start to experience challenges at work because of your cancer or treatment, try changes that will make it easier for you to keep working. For example, you might be able to:

  • have more flexible working hours
  • work from home
  • have special equipment to make your work environment more comfortable
  • lessen your workload from full time to part time for a while
  • change to a less demanding role.

If you need help explaining things to your employer, ask the appropriate member of your medical team, a union representative, or a cancer support group for advice.

You might have access to an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) where you can phone a trained professional for counselling to help you deal with what’s going on at work and in life.

If you can’t work

There will be periods of time when you are not well enough to go to work. This can be boring and frustrating for you. However, it doesn’t mean you can’t be productive over these periods.

If you feel well enough you can do some of the things you had been meaning to do but never got around to: do an online course, discover some new apps or empty your email inbox!

You may be eligible for extended sick leave, Sickness Allowance payments and other help. Find out what rights you have from your company, a cancer support organisation, a union representative, a lawyer or the Fair Work Ombudsman.

Going back to work after treatment

Going back to work can help you to regain your confidence and independence and bring back a ‘normal’ routine that gives you something to focus on other than cancer.

Read more advice about returning to work after cancer, including changing careers and your rights.