Caring for my newly diagnosed partner with cancer.

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My mind is a mess at the moment because of more cancer worries now with my partner.

I've already taken time over over the past 15 months here and there because my mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer last June, she has reached her 70th birthday which none of us were expecting this time last year, also my Labrador was diagnosed with cancer but after he had a toe removed he's been given the all clear,.

My biggest concern is I'm on a final written warning at work for my attendance and I'm worried if I push having more time off to be there for my partner I honestly could lose my job, it actually got to a point that I was under the impression my manager didn't believe me as in his email he asked for proof my partner has cancer, to say this has severly upset my partner and I is an understatement. Luckily someone in the company has spoken to myself and advised me to follow my doctors orders and have time with my partner as I was in no fit state myself to work, I'm still not happy with the prospect of not being there for her and my mental health is shot, I don't know what to do for the best and I can't talk to my partner because it's not fare me dumping more problems onto her already troubled plate.

I was told to take as much time as I needed, so because we are not at the point of knowing how severe this diagnosis is for my partner, I feel I need to stay away from work until we know more. Unfortunately the prospect of actually losing my job and not being able to support my partner financially is always there in my mind. I've put in a second sick note for a month as now according to the surgeon's secretary it could be up to six weeks before we know the severity of her cancer so I'm now worried about being dragged in by my manager.

Thanks for any advice you could give me.

  • Thank you for your question. My name is Polly I am a work support adviser on the Macmillan support line.

    It sounds like you and your family have been under a lot of pressure.

    Your employment rights related to caring responsibilities depend on your length of service and whether your employer has a time off policy for those with caring responsibilities. It is important to check this.

    As it stands now, it is important to caution you because incidences of sickness absence can escalate the triggers on the sickness absence policy. This can be risky because you could be dismissed from work.  I suggest:

    1. Think about if there is any work that you can do while you are waiting for your partner's results. Perhaps the GP can give you a fit note that says reduced hours? This fit note will help you request a temporary reduction in hours and can include suggestions like “work from home”.
    2. Cancer is a recognised disability under the Equality Act 2010 or the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 if you live in Northern Ireland. You are protected from discrimination because you are associated with a cancer patient. The employer should not discriminate against you because of your caring responsibilities. Please see Working Families
    3. All employees have the right to request flexible working provided they have six-month service with the employer. This is not ideal for many carers because it can lead to a permanent change in your contract and a request can be rejected for business reasons.
    4. If you must take time off for a dependent in the emergency, you should not suffer any detriments or be disciplined for taking this time however you are not legally entitled to be paid. Some employers have compassionate leave policies that cover these circumstances. Please see Carers UK

    If you need support or you need to talk please reach out to our services on the Macmillan support line.


    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