Employment question

  • 1 reply
  • 3 subscribers


Ive had breast cancer & been on work leave since May last year. During this time I’ve had regular work review meetings. 
In February at my last work meeting I was informed that if I do not return to work in May , I face redeployment. 
The issue I have is I am still in pain from my lymph node surgery following breast reconstruction. I am having still having physio from the hospital & recently I have found a sports masseur for weekly massage. I like My job but it involves personal care, lifting etc. & I don’t feel ready to go back just yet but I feel I am now on countdown! I am not in receipt of work pay any more, my sick pay has finished so it’s feasible work could temporarily put someone in my role. Can someone advise please 

  • Hello  

    Thank you for your question. I am so sorry to hear about your problems with pain following your surgery. My name is Polly, and I am a work support adviser on the Macmillan support line.

    Most employers have a sickness absence policy. This lays out the steps an employer should take when an employee is off sick.

    Your employment rights in this situation depends on your length of service. If you have over 2 years’ service (1 year if you live in Northern Ireland) you are protected from unfair dismissal. This means that the employer must follow a fair procedure if they are dealing with someone who is on long term sick leave.

    I feel that you should be encouraged by the communication that you have received from your employer because they appear to be offering you an opportunity of redeployment. This implies that they do not want to dismiss you and they are prepared to accommodate you in a job that you can do comfortably.

    This process (if conducted fairly) consists of several steps and at least two formal meetings.

    1. The employer needs to investigate your health problem because they need to work out if there is a return-to-work date in the foreseeable future. Usually this is done by referral to Occupational Health. They can also ask your permission to write to your GP/Health team for a medical report.
    2. During this investigation and these meetings, the employer will look for answers to the following questions:
      1. Is there a foreseeable return to work date?
      2. Are there any reasonable adjustments they can do to help with the return? For example, a phased return or light duties
      3. Are there suitable alternative roles available?

    This is part of a formal process so you will be entitled to bring a colleague or your union Rep with you to these formal meetings.

    Your employer has escalated the triggers on the sickness absence policy because you have been on sick leave for 10 months. They have pointed out that an outcome from this process could mean that you are redeployed to another role. However, the employer can dismiss an employee on health grounds if they decide that you are too ill to return to your original role, there are no reasonable adjustments that can help you get back to work and there are no re-deployment opportunities. If you work for the NHS or Local Authority, then they may also offer ill health retirement.

    At this stage it is important to think about what you want.

    I suggest the following:

    1. Talk to your health team. What is their view about an improvement in your health? Will you achieve effective pain management by the end of this treatment? What have you got to do to prevent a return of the pain?
    2. Talk to your family and your friends. Get support and feedback about your health from people who know you well.
    3. Reach out to your union Rep or trusted colleague who can accompany you.
    4. Once you've gained some insight you may be able to offer your employer a return date that can be classed as foreseeable. For example, you can tell your employer that you would like further discussions about a return to work after completion of your physiotherapy treatment. Even though it will be difficult for you to offer an exact date you can ask the employer to review your situation in 6 to 8 weeks.
    5. It is important to understand your rights under the Equality Act 2010 (or the DDA if you live in Northern Ireland). In particular:
      1. As your sickness absence is related to a disability which is recognised under the Equality Act (or the DDA) you can ask your employer to deescalate the triggers on the sickness absence policy. Your sick leave should be classed as disability leave. ACAS offer advice on this point.
      2. You have mentioned that you like your job, so it is important to tell your employer. A person who enjoys their job makes a better employee. This should be meaningful and valuable to the employer, and you can ask for their patience and cooperation on this rocky road to recovery.
      3. Have a look at our resources so you can learn more about the meaning of reasonable adjustments and it will help you prepare – Work and Cancer and Managing Cancer in the Workplace


    Please feel free to talk to us if you've got any more questions or worries. The work support team are available on 0808 808 0000. We are open from Monday to Friday between 8:00 AM and 6:00 PM.


    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