Getting back to work (in school )

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I was told back in Aug 2022 that I had stage 4 cancer of the bowel,I have had chemo and immunotherapy every 2 weeks .

The last few months a felt great ,back to normal.So I contact work to get a phase return.

The school(primary school) that I work is council  run so the school contacted HR for advice.I received a phone call from HR nurse who asked lots of questions.

This was then forward to HR advices who contacted the school saying I was not fit for work

due to having a PICC line and my immune system was going to be low .

The school then sent me a email with a risk assessment attached which said the same that I was not able to my duties .

I have had 6 month away from work so far,lNow I feel they is no way to get back to work

my oncologist has write a letter saying I am fit to go back to work in.

any advice ,I know I can get round the PICC line by having it removed and having chemotherapy by a catheter.

  • 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 when 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 wanted to start my advice by telling you about your protection from disability discrimination under the Equality Act 2010 (or Disability Discrimination Act 1995 if you live in Northern Ireland).  Both Acts define cancer automatically as a disability, which means anyone diagnosed with cancer is considered to be disabled.  Under the Acts, providing your employer is aware of your diagnosis, you should not be discriminated against because of it. Your employer is duty-bound to make reasonable adjustments to support you either to remain at work or to return to work if you have had a period of absence.  This protection is lifelong and does not depend upon an active cancer diagnosis.  

    Our publication Your Rights At Work explains more about the Acts and how you are protected in the workplace.

    When an employee is fit to return to work after a period of absence, it is good employment practice to consult with them and healthcare professionals about any support they may need upon their return, and I can see that your employer has followed this process.  It will be useful if you are able, to look at any policies around sickness absence your employer may have.  It will give you an idea of what to expect in terms of their management of it.

    In your situation, your oncologist has deemed you fit for work, but your employer has reviewed your health and assessed you as unfit for work. They have also assessed the risk of you returning as too great.

    Employers do have the right gather evidence about your fitness to work from other healthcare professionals.  They also have a duty to protect employees from harm and I have included a link to the HSE which might be useful for you to read. They should, however, take care to ensure that any decisions as a result of this do not put the employee at a disadvantage.

    It will be worthwhile asking your employer for more details as to why they believe you cannot return and depending upon what they say, understand if anything can be done to minimise those risks.  If you are in a union, you could ask them to support you. 

    I am unsure what role it is that you do at the school, but you could also ask your employer if there are duties that you could undertake which might minimise the risks as a reasonable adjustment?  Are there duties for example that you could do from home or which might avoid exposure to the risks they have identified? Or an office you can work in that would minimise the risks? If you identify any reasonable adjustments which may help you, you can ask your employer to accommodate these.  If your employer refuses, the onus is on them to be able to demonstrate why it is unreasonable for them to accommodate your request, otherwise it could suggest that you are being treated less favourably as a disabled employee.   

    Any change to your treatment regime is something which would need to be agreed with your oncologist, who will assess the impact and risk and discuss those with you.  

    I do hope this is helpful.  Please do contact us again if we can help you further.


    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.