Work after cancer

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diagnosed with breast cancer in Aug 2021, struggled with stress and anxiety after treatment. Ended up having 5 months off work. Phased return from August 2022, January back to full time, however I have really struggled with full time and asked to go down to 4 days/32 hours, I struggled both physically and mentally with 40 hours, mostly fatigue but also with quality of life. 
Today my supervisor had a chat to see how I was, I said I am feeling a lot better with the four days, she said what’s the plan, I didn’t know what she meant so asked her to clarify, basically she said they want me back full time and that four days is not long term! I don’t know where I stand as regards to this, I feel I cannot manage full time anymore and am quite happy with the four days. I am just wondering where I stand and if I have any rights with this situation.

many thanks 

  • #Sassygirl

    Hi Sassygirl

    My name is Stacey and I am a Work Support adviser for Macmillan and I will answer your query.

    You may be aware that if you live in England, Scotland, or Wales you have some protection under the Equality Act 2010 (Disability Discrimination Act 1995 in Northern Ireland) as a cancer diagnosis is automatically classed as a disability and that your employer has a duty to provide reasonable adjustments to you at work to support in you in your phased return. It seems that your employer is aware of this, and your adjustment would have been to have dropped your hours to the 4-day week (as a part of your phased return) until you are able to return to your substantive post. During this time, you would be accruing your rights against your full-time post (for example, holidays) even though you may have just been paid for the time you are working. The adjustments as a result of your disability should be there for as long as needed but it would be reasonable for your employer to expect you to return to your normal hours when you are able.

    If your intention was to return to your contractual full-time post, you may want to talk to your employer about seeing Occupational Health for an assessment in order to plan out what further adjustments you might need. You don’t say what kind of work you do, but if you needed to increase your hours, other examples of reasonable adjustments would be to possibly work from home or if in the workplace – to have lighter duties, longer rest breaks, staggered hours. Here is a link to our booklet ‘Your Rights at Work’ which describes examples of the types of adjustment you could ask for. There is also a service too called ‘Access to Work’ where a grant may be provided to pay for any practical support you may need (information on this service if given at the back of the booklet):


     Your Rights at Work


    However, it appears from what you say that you don’t plan to ever return to your full-time post. The 4-day week suits you and you feel that you have a better quality of life. If you say this to your employer, you are actually asking for a change in contract to part time. This would be a separate discussion. Your employer will be looking at their business needs to accommodate the new part time post of a 4-day week. It seems as though they need this full-time post, and the question is whether they would be prepared to accept either to convert the post to part time or to recruit someone else to full-time post. They might like to consider alternatives for you – possibly a job share or that they may think of another part time post which would suit you.  This might be called redeployment. Hopefully they would have the flexibility to offer alternatives and that you could ask for this to be a reasonable adjustment..

    If you don’t feel ready to make this decision yet and are not sure at this stage though, you could ask for a further extension of your reasonable adjustment of the 4-day week and you would say that you just need a bit longer to improve your health before returning to the full time post.

    I hope that you have found the above information useful, please contact us again for further help and advice.  



    Work Support Adviser

    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.