A cancer diagnosis never comes at 'the right time', and this can feel even more so if you're trying to juggle work and a family. What are your rights when it comes to your job? Do you tell your employer? What happens if you need to care for a loved one, but need to continue at work?

This week Macmillan and blogger Elizabeth O'Riordan held a Twitter Q&A, with a Macmillan Support Line Adviser on hand to answer your questions. The following are our top 10 tips regarding work and cancer.

1. If you change jobs do you have to declare your cancer diagnosis even if you've completed treatment?

Changing jobs (links to Twitter)

Cancer is classed as a disability under the Equality Act 2010. Disclosing a cancer diagnosis is your choice. However, it may not be in your best interests if you decide not to. The NHS have a page answering this question well.

2. What is the most common frustration people face with their employers when returning to work?

Common frustrations (links to Twitter)

From experience, employers not realising cancer is classed as a disability and failure to make reasonable adjustments. If you have concerns about discrimination, please give the Macmillan support line a call to discuss further (0808 808 0000, Mon-Fri, 9am-8pm).

3. Should someone with cancer take sick leave or annual leave for further treatment?

Annual or sick leave (links to Twitter)

We can't say whether you should take sick/annual leave for treatment. Any statutory holiday that isn't used because of illness can be carried over to the next year. If you are ill just before/during a holiday, you can take sick leave instead. Employers can't force staff to take annual leave if eligible for sick leave. Our leaflet Questions about Work and Cancer may help you.

4. Can I ask for regular breaks to help cope with side effects of cancer treatment? Can my employers refuse this?

Regular breaks (links to Twitter)

You can request regular rest breaks as part of a 'reasonable adjustment'. You can find more information about this on our page Your Rights at Work.

5. Can a parent claim carers allowance if taking extended time off to care for a sick child?

Carers Allowance (links to Twitter)

You have rights at work and there are laws in place to support you. Visit our page about supporting a loved one for further information.

6. Why is there such limited help for freelance workers like myself?

Self-employment (links to Twitter)

Macmillan has a lot of information available on self-employment and cancer, including working during treatment or choosing to give up work temporarily

7. What happens if I can't go back to work full-time? Do I then get sacked?

Going back full time (links to Twitter)

You may wish to request reduced hours as a reasonable adjustment. You can find out more from this Disability Law Service document, pages 6 to 8.

8. What options are available if someone in your family has cancer and you want to take time off to support them?

Caring for family (links to Twitter)

You can check employer's policies regarding carers and parents in your staff handbook. If you have 26 weeks continuous service, you have a statutory right to request flexible working (up to one request per year). Find out more about flexible working.

9. I'm returning to work after treatment. How can I help myself?

Returning to work (links to Macmillan page)

Macmillan has information available that will aid you when returning to work after treatment, including advice on a 'return-to-work' plan.

10. How to help a colleague who has cancer:

Helping a colleague (links to Twitter)

Macmillan has information available on how to support a colleague who has been diagnosed and needs treatment.

If you have any further concerns or questions about work and cancer, please give our support line a call (freephone 0808 808 0000, Mon-Fri, 9am-8pm). We're here so you don't have to face cancer alone.


Join our Online Community to talk to others affected by cancer.

Read more on our Community News Blog

Read the transcript of the Twitter Q&A