Change of hours at work

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Hi. I was diagnosed in September 2020 with TNBC, I went back to work a year later after receiving 6 months of weekly chemo, surgery, and radiotherapy. Since returning I dropped my hours to part time and have only working mornings until approx 2/3pm since, so for the last 2 years. I am fully flexible every day of the week but prefer not to work past 5/6pm as I get tired. I suffer with sleepless nights and am often awake from 3am so doing early shifts suits me as I am awake with no hope of drifting off! My work want to change my hours to be fully flexible including late nights. For me I would find this a struggle as I am normally asleep or dozing by 7pm due to fatigue. I know they will say “but you go out for dinner outside of work, so surely you can work a shift” or something along those lines. But obviously what they don’t see is the next day I spend in bed or napping due to being tired. I feel if I was to do late nights at work, it would then result in me spending the next day wiped out and therefore disrupting quality of life. I’d like a little advice on how to go about this. I have explained I am flexible 7 days a week, 3am until 6pm just not late nights. I suffer with neuropathy, insomnia, cording in arms, menopause, anxiety, and obviously mental health issues resulting from the trauma of going through a cancer diagnosis. I am a member of the work union and I understand I am still covered by equality act is this correct? Any advice you can give would be much appreciated. Thank you. 

  • Hi  

    Thank you for contacting us here at Macmillan.  My name is Alissa 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 hopefully, we can guide you with next steps and the support you require at work.

    I am sorry to hear of your triple negative breast cancer diagnosis and the side effects that you are now managing. You have been through so much in these past three years and have done so well in returning to work. I can hear that you are self-aware and of your limits whilst trying to manage the side effects of your cancer treatment. I can understand how working the late shifts may negatively impact you and it’s important to highlight to your employer how your circumstances are different to others in the workplace, who have not had a cancer diagnosis.

    You are correct about the Equality Act’s protection. You have 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.  Importantly, 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.

    Reasonable adjustments remove or minimise disadvantages experienced by disabled people. Employers must make reasonable adjustments to ensure disabled people are not disadvantaged in the workplace. They should also make sure policies and practices do not put disabled people at a disadvantage.

    You can request a reasonable adjustment in the workplace, providing you can relate it back to your cancer. Your employer has a duty to consider all reasonable adjustments and a failure to do so could suggest disability discrimination. If your employer rejects a reasonable adjustment request, they need to be able to demonstrate why it is “unreasonable” for them to accommodate or it could suggest that you are being treated less favourably as a disabled person. If you feel this applies, it would be advisable to seek further advice.

    As a reasonable adjustment, you may want and need to request certain working hours and to avoid the late shifts, due the reasons that you mentioned which are linked to your diagnosis, side effects and recovery. There may be other adjustments that could help and support you, such as workload, duties, extra breaks to mention just a few. Reach out to your Union Representative too as they could potentially help and support you with your request.

    There are several ways to request reasonable adjustments:

    A referral to Occupational Health is good employment practice. You will be assessed by a medical professional who can make recommendations for reasonable adjustments to support you at work. Both you and your Employer will receive a copy of the report produced.

    The side effects that you are dealing with, neuropathy, insomnia, cording in arms, menopause, anxiety, and mental health issues. These can be challenging. Can I check if you are in touch with your medical team? If not, it’s just to say that they would want to know if there is any way they can help and support you so please do reach out to them.

    Through the Support Line we have a Cancer Information Nurse Specialists who can answer questions about cancer, treatments, managing symptoms and side effects, and other clinical issues and also a Cancer Information and Support Team who can provide emotional support and information. Both reachable by using the above link for online queries or by telephone, on 0808 808 00 00 from 8am to 8pm every day.

    I hope this information is helpful. If you have any further questions or worries, please do not hesitate to get in touch.

    Best wishes



    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