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Working and caring for someone with terminal cancer

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My dad was diagnosed with small cell lung cancer in April 2019. We found out 3 weeks ago it has spread. My dad has deteriorated quite quick and the doctors have told us we are short of time. We brought him home last Thursday to care for him but I’m struggling to balance work and family life. There is only me and my mam so I want to be at home with her caring for my dad as much as possible and I am unsure how to go about this with work 

any advice would be welcome 

Su - Macmillan
Posted by

Hello ,

Thank you so much for taking the time to get in touch with us, I am sorry to hear about your Dad and that he has deteriorated quite quickly.

I will go though some of the options you have as a carer and hopefully this will give you chance to get a better work life balance and can be there to support your Mam and Dad.

As your Dad has a cancer diagnosis, he is considered to have a disability under the Equality Act 2010 or Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (Northern Ireland). This means his employer should not discriminate against your him because of his cancer. His employer is also under a duty to make reasonable adjustments to help him at work. This protection is lifelong and does not depend on an active cancer diagnosis.

I have attached a link our booklet “Your Rights at Work’”, which explains more about the Equality legalisation and how your Dad is protected in the workplace.

Under Equality legislation carers also have some protection against discrimination “by association” with a disabled person. Here is a link to our booklet “Working while caring for someone with cancer” which explains more about this and carers options.

It may be worth checking your employer’s policies for carers. This information may be found within your contract of employment, staff handbook or internal intranet at work.

If you have 26 week’s continuous service, you have a statutory right to request flexible working. Under the statutory procedure, you can only make one request per year. Your employer can turn down a request for business reasons. They should follow a fair procedure, which would usually mean allowing you the right to appeal a negative decision. You can find more information if you click here. The Working Families website also have a lot of useful information include an template letter to request flexible working.

Another statutory right is to have time off to look after a dependant in an emergency. This would not normally apply to planned appointments. You can find out more information if you click here. An employer is not obligated to pay an employee for time off unless it is written into their contract of employment.

As there are no laws that specifically deal with taking a career break it is advisable when considering taking one to get in writing any agreement that is made. You should check whether you are able to return to the same role and whether your pay and terms and conditions remain the same. You should also check that your service remains continuous and whether you will be paid during your absence. Your employer may have a policy regarding career breaks which you could check. For more information you may find the ACAS pages on taking a career break from work useful.

If you were to reduce your hours at work or consider a career break this may have a financial impact on your salary. It may be beneficial speaking with the Money side of our Money and Work team who can ensure you are receiving all the financial support you are entitled if your situation were to alter. The team is available on 0808 808 0000 Monday to Friday 8am till 8pm, by selecting option 1, followed by options 2 followed by options 2.

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


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.