Managing work and caring for my husband

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My husband cancer treatment plan is 11 weeks of treatment with 4 cycles of chemotherapy and 25 sessions on radiotherapy. We are in the 7th week of his treatment just finishing 2 weeks of radiotherapy. My work has been very supportive by letting me have time to attend all hospital meetings/consultations regarding my husband treatment. My husband has lost his appetite completely and is losing weight drastically. He is so weak and relies on my care. The medical team has advise for him to have a feeding tube which we are going to agree on next week. My issue is that I am struggling to manage my job and give my husband the care that he needs from me. My husband has 4 more weeks of treatment left and with the radiotherapy I know he will get weaker plus he will have the feeding tube. I know I need to be home to care for him but what do I do about my job. Please advise.

  • Hi  

    Thank you for contacting us here at Macmillan.  My name is Rachel and I am a Work Support Advisor on Macmillan’s National Support Line.  My team provides guidance on your rights at work of you are affected by cancer and I would like to provide you with some information which I hope will help with your query and help you plan your next steps.

    I am so sorry to read that your husband is feeling so weak at present.  It must be incredibly tough trying to work as well as manage his care.  I am going to provide you with some information specifically about your rights at work as a carer but thought it might also be useful for you to know that we have a team of Information and Support professionals on our Support Line, if exploring care options was something you would like to discuss.  They are also available to provide space for you to talk if you should need it.  It is so important that you look after your own health and wellbeing.  They can be contacted on 0808 808 0000, options 1 and 1 again; via email or using our webchat service.

    It is good to read that your employer has been supportive so far; allowing you to attend your husband’s consultations.    It might be useful for you to be aware that if you care for someone with cancer and are an employee, you do have some rights at work.  Our booklet Working Whilst Caring For Someone With Cancer provides more detail on this.

    Carers have the right to ask for flexible working, providing they have 26 weeks continuous employment and when the formal process is followed, carers have the right to make 1 request per annum and this will often mean a permanent contractual change.  Your employer may be open to a discussion about a temporary, informal arrangement to help whilst your husband completes his treatment.    It is important to note however that whether the arrangement is formal or informal, the employer does not have to agree to it, if the arrangement adversely affects their organisation. 

    It would be worthwhile exploring whether a flexible working arrangement either formal or informal might suit your circumstances; allowing you to continue working whilst providing the care your husband needs.

    Carers also have the right to take a reasonable amount of time off for emergencies to deal with the person they are caring for (carers don't have a statutory right for this to be paid but may have a contractual one).   This is for occasions where you might have to leave work suddenly to deal with the needs of the person you are caring for, rather than for planned appointments.

    Some employers have a carers' policy which is more generous than the statutory minimum required by law.  It would be worthwhile asking whether your employer has such a policy.  They don’t have to have one but if they do, it could be that paid carers’ leave or additional flexibility might be a possibility, which can be incredibly helpful for employees with caring responsibilities.  If there is no right to paid time off, some people might choose to use annual leave, work back any time taken off, or take unpaid leave.

    If you are in a union, it might be useful for you to get in touch with them to understand how you can be supported.

    If working is incompatible with your own health, you could speak to your GP with a view to taking some time off work on sick leave.  It will be important of course to have an awareness of your employer’s sickness absence policy and ensure that this is followed. 

    I would also like to make you aware that the Equality Act 2010, if you live in England, Scotland or Wales or Disability Discrimination Act 1995, if you live in Northern Ireland, protects carers from discrimination by association, as the person they care for is disabled due to their diagnosis. 

    I hope you have found this information useful but please do contact us again if there is anything else we can help you with. You can either reply to this message, email us, or contact us on the Macmillan Support Line directly. We are available on webchat or via phone from 8am to 6pm Monday to Friday. To call us, our number is 0808 808 0000 option 1, then 2, then 3.

    Best regards

    Rachel, Work Support Advisor 

    Remember you can also speak with the Macmillan Support Line team of experts. Phone free on 0808 808 0000 (7 days a week, 8am-8pm) or by email.

  • Hi Rachel,

    Thank you for your advice - it was very helpful. I did contact my GP who is supporting me.

    Many Thanks