Being diagnosed with cancer is a life-changing event for many people each year. In the U.K., there are over 375,000 people diagnosed with cancer per year. In all of its various forms and presentations, cancer is an incredibly difficult part of life for a significant portion of our society.

With so many new diagnoses of cancer each and every year, it is common that people become ill with the disease while in current employment. As we know, cancer can arrive in different stages and with different levels of severity. This means that some people will continue to work while having cancer. Others will take an absence from work and return. Others will need to leave their role entirely.

As such, cancer is a difficult but important topic to discuss when it comes to employment. The condition and its effects will have an influence on both employer and employee, typically in a very significant way.

On this page of our Disability Advice Hub, we want to discuss this issue and its two sides. At Careers with Disabilities, we aspire to help both employees and employees with their journey in employment and disability. We hope that this page provides some extra support and resources regardless of which side you are on.

How Cancer Can Affect Your Career

We don’t have to tell you that cancer can affect your career. Depending on what kind of cancer you have, what stage you are in, and how it develops, your career can be affected in a great range of ways.

Being diagnosed with cancer can come as a huge shock and it can be something that takes time to process. Receiving such a diagnosis while in employment is incredibly difficult, so don’t worry if it takes you time to decide what path you are going to take with the future of your job.

The main options you have upon receiving a cancer diagnosis include:

  • Leaving work entirely: You may wish to leave your work entirely when you are diagnosed with cancer. Or you may have no option but do so. In this case, you should contact your local job centre and check what benefits you are entitled to now that you will be out of a job. Being diagnosed with cancer allows you to sign on for disability benefits as well as Universal Credit. To find out more about this, check out our page on finding financial help in your area.
  • Staying in your job with adjustments: Depending on your own individual circumstances, you may wish to stay in your current job while you have cancer. If so, you will most likely need some reasonable adjustments to be made so you can continue to work safely. We will talk more about this in the following section.
  • Finding a new job: The period after receiving a cancer diagnosis might seem like an odd time to look for a new job. However, upon your diagnosis, you may realise your current job is no longer a good fit. If adjustments can’t or won’t be made to improve this, a new job might be your best option. There are lots of employers out there who are understanding and inclusive. These employers can help make your working environment as appropriate as possible while you are ill. To find current job vacancies from such employers, you can head over to our live disability-friendly jobs board for more.

Whatever avenue you decide upon, you should be supported and respected. In the next section of this blog, we are going to discuss what support you are entitled to while you are in active employment.

For more support related to dealing with your diagnosis and finding mental health support, please explore these options:

What Support You Are Entitled to at Work

If you continue to work while you have cancer, there is support that you are entitled to. Knowing about this support and taking advantage of it is essential.

As someone with cancer, you are diagnosed as disabled in the U.K. Many people don’t know this and so they don’t know the level of support they are entitled to at work.

Under the Equality Act of 2010, disabled people are protected from discrimination at work and unfair working conditions. An important part of this is “reasonable adjustments”. Reasonable adjustments are the changes and modifications that your employer needs to make so that your work can be safe and appropriate. When possible, it is a legal requirement that your employer makes these changes. If there is an issue with the financial aspect of this process, the Access of Work scheme can provide assistance.

Reasonable adjustments can take many forms, but some that are popular among people dealing with cancer include:

  • Time off for appointments and rest
  • Reduce workload and responsibilities
  • More rest breaks
  • Flexible working hours, including the option for remote and hybrid working models
  • A change of work equipment depending on physical need
  • Paid transport to and from work to avoid public transport or driving

Whatever you feel you need will depend on your individual circumstances and that is ok. Remember that you have the right to ask for what you need.

Read more about your rights as a disabled person.

How Employers Can Support Employees with Cancer

It is important that employers support employees with cancer in the right way. Being diagnosed with cancer is an incredibly difficult time for people and they will need both empathy and flexibility from you.

It is your legal requirement to make any reasonable adjustments your employer might need, as discussed above. Not only is it a legal matter, but it is also a matter of respect and dignity. As much as you can, offering the right support and building the right environment for your employee with cancer can make a huge difference.

One of the very best actions you can take as an employer is working toward becoming a Disability-Friendly employer. Doing so opens your workplace to people of all walks of life, abilities, and capabilities. This has a lot of benefits for everyone and you can read a little bit more about those benefits and advantages on this page of our site.

You can start your journey as a Disability-Friendly employer with us at Careers with Disabilities. Find out everything you need to know from our handy guides and then check out the packages we offer for inclusive and diverse employers.

We can help you transform your business in a brand new way.