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Should I be going back to work?

Posted by

Good Morning. I'm a 57 year old who was diagnosed with endometrial cancer on 8th July and underwent an hysterectomy on the 24th. I was given a sick note for 6 weeks taking me up to the 5th September.

I saw my consultant on the 27th August where she advised me that cancer had been found in the lymph vessels within the womb but that it wasn't known whether they had migrated to the lymph nodes in the pelvis.

She has advised that I have 2 internal radiotherapy treatments and my appointment to progress these with the oncologist is on the 12th September.

I feel a bit i limbo. I have quite a stressful job as a police radio controller and work 6 consecutive 10 hour shifts. I don't feel quite ready to go back to it but am unsure how much time I should take. Do people in a similar situation go back to work in the interim? It's possible that I could return on reduced hours.

I'd be grateful for any advice you could offer.

Sian R - Macmillan
Posted by

Hi ,

Thank you for taking the time to contact us about how you are feeling about returning to work. I understand from your message that you are concerned about whether to return to work as you need further treatment.

With regard to your question about whether people return to work even though they are covered by a Fit Note, I can confirm that whilst covered by a Fit Note you are still able to work on the days that you feel fit enough to do so and provided that your medical team are happy for you to work.  

Due to your cancer diagnosis you are considered to have a disability under the Equality Act 2010 or Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (in Northern Ireland). This means your employer should not discriminate against you because of your cancer. Your employer is also under a duty to make reasonable adjustments to help you at work. This protection is lifelong and doesn’t depend on an active cancer diagnosis.

I have attached a link our booklet ‘Your Rights at Work’, which explains more about the Equality Act 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.

If you feel able to do some element of your role, it may be worth you thinking about what reasonable adjustments would help you to continue working. An example of this could be working reduced hours. I have attached a link to Equality Advisory and Support Service template letters resource that you can use to request reasonable adjustments (titled “Request to make Reasonable Adjustments”).

It may help to support your request with medical evidence from your doctor, such as a fit note that lists the adjustments you need. Your company may arrange for you to have an Occupational Health assessment to identify reasonable adjustments you may need, this can often help with formalising a back to work plan.

Whether you decide to remain on sick leave or not, it may be advisable to approach your manager or HR department and request a copy of the sickness absence policy. This may explain sickness absence triggers and how your employer would manage your absence.

If you were to return to work on reduced hours as a temporary measure or on a phased return, it is worth mentioning that your employer is under no obligation to pay you for any more than the hours that you work unless stated otherwise in your contract. Sometimes people decide to use their accrued annual leave to ensure that their pay in these circumstances is not impacted too much. 

I hope you find this information helpful to your situation if you need further support please do not hesitate to contact us back.

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.
Posted by

Sian, thank you so much for your reply. It has certainly given me lots of useful pointers and I shall plan my campaign accordingly.