Heading back to work potentially

Dear Support person,

I work for the NHS and a local Trust who have been very supportive. I had to take off work after working full time with him super ill for 8 months here at home. I work full time as part of a stroke rehab nursing team in a local cottage hospital. I love what I do but when we got Covid on the ward, it suddenly overwhelmed me. My managers have been great in that I have now had 2 months off with full pay so far and the GP has signed me off until March 4th. His last scan has deemed him "stable" which is great news- no progression. However I do not know if he will be able to manage here at home without me He has lung cancer, with metastases to his bones and adrenal glands. I know I could not handle the normal 12 hour shifts as I would simply be away from home for too long. I am so confused here. I've made an appt to talk to my boss on Thursday morning. I will ask about doing shorter shifts if possible. But I know that eventually I will need my job and I don't want to lose it. I also don't know if he can manage here on his own-? 

I'm not sure I've been very clear here or even asked a question. 

Thank you in advance,


  • Hello

    Thank you for contacting us here at Macmillan.  My name is Rachel and I am a Work Support Advisor on Macmillan’s National Support Line.

    I’m glad that you have chosen to come and talk to us.  It certainly sounds like it has been a tough time, balancing work and caring for your husband.  I can understand how frightening Covid has been for you, so it is good to read that when you felt overwhelmed during the pandemic, your employer has been supportive and that you have been able to take some time away from work and not have the pressure of financial worry during this time.

    It sounds like the most recent news on your husband’s health is that his condition has become more stable, however it is natural to feel apprehensive about how he will cope at home, if you were to return to work.  It might be useful for you to know that we have a team of Information and Support professionals on our Support Line, if exploring care options was something you would like to discuss.  They can be contacted on 0808 808 0000, options 1 and 1 again; via email or using our webchat service.

    Teresa, it might be also useful for you to be aware that If you care for someone with cancer, you have limited rights at work. The Equality Act 2010 if you live in England, Scotland or Wales or Disability Discrimination Act 1995, if you live in Northern Ireland protects carers from discrimination by association, as the person they care for is disabled due to their diagnosis.  It might be useful to look at our booklet Working Whilst Caring For Someone With Cancer which provides more detail on this.

    Carers have the right to ask for flexible working, providing they have 26 weeks continuous employment and when the formal process is followed, carers have the right to make 1 request per annum and will often be a permanent contractual change if you choose to reduce your hours this way.  It is important to note, that the employer does not have to agree to this if it adversely affects their organisation.  Carers also have the right to take a reasonable amount of time off for emergencies to deal with the person they are caring for (carers don't have a statutory right for this to be paid but may have a contractual one).  It might be worthwhile based on the information you have provided me, to explore whether a flexible working arrangement either formal or informal might suit your circumstances; allowing you to continue working whilst ensuring that your husband is not left too long at home.

    Some employers have a carers' policy which details contractual benefits which you can access on top of the statutory minimum you have as a carer. You may find it helpful to ask for this. Your employer doesn't have to have one, but they can offer carers' leave which can be helpful.

    If you are in a union, it might be useful for you to get in touch with them to understand how you can be supported.

    I hope this has helped address your concerns but please do contact us again if there is anything further we can help you with. You can either reply to this message, email us, or contact us on the Macmillan Support Line directly. We are available on webchat or via phone from 8am to 6pm Monday to Friday. To call us, our number is 0808 808 0000 option 1, then 2, then 3.


    Best regards

    Rachel, 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.