Some advice please

Hi, I'm Angela, 

I'm just finished treatment for cervical cancer stage 2b. I'm recovering well but am left with fatigue and terrible brain fog! I work as a carer in the community, I don't think I will be able to do all the driving required for my work when I return and also the work itself is heavy and quite exhausting. There's no real adjustments that my employer can make to my role to make it easier so my question is "do I look for another less exhausting job and when will I be forced to look for employment?" 

  1. Thanks for any advice. Angela xx
  • Hi

    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 so pleased to read that you are recovering well from your treatment but understand that you are now managing some unpleasant side effects from it.   It really is important to feel physically and emotionally ready to return to work and your healthcare team will be able to advise you on this.  I’d like to provide you with some information which will help you understand what your rights are at work and also your employer’s legal responsibilities to you.   I hope in turn, that this will help you planning your next steps. 

    From your enquiry, it sounds like you have an understanding of some of your employer’s responsibilities towards you but do remember that anyone who has a cancer diagnosis is automatically considered to be disabled under the Equality Act 2010 in England, Scotland and Wales, or the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 if you live in Northern Ireland. This means your employer should not discriminate against you because of your cancer and that your employer is also under a duty to make reasonable adjustments to help you at work. This protection is lifelong and does not depend on an active cancer diagnosis – the law recognises that sometimes cancer patients need support even when their active treatment ends. 

    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.

    You can request a reasonable adjustment in the workplace, providing you can relate it back to your cancer. Your employer has a duty to consider all reasonable adjustments and a failure to do so could suggest disability discrimination. If your employer rejects a reasonable adjustment request, they need to be able to demonstrate why it is “unreasonable” for them to accommodate or it could suggest that you are being treated less favourably as a disabled person.

    When you are ready to think about returning to work, it might be useful to think about any reasonable adjustments which might help you.  You have mentioned that you do not believe there are any adjustments but it is worthwhile thinking about this carefully as there may be things you had not considered which might support you in your role. Some examples are a phased return where you gradually build up your hours and your resilience at work; lighter duties; an alternative role.  Remember, failure to make reasonable adjustments can be disability discrimination. It would be up to your employer to explain why they are unreasonable.   It may help to support your request with medical evidence from your doctor, such as a Fit Note that lists the adjustments you need. If you are a member of a union, you could ask your union representative to support you in doing this.   An Occupational Health assessment could help you identify reasonable adjustments you may need; this can often help with formalising a back to work plan when you are ready to return.

    You have asked when you will be forced to look for employment and I have assumed that by this, you are asking what your employer may do if you are unable to return to your role due to your health.   It will be important in the first instance to check your employer’s policies around sickness absence, both in terms of pay and how they manage it.    All employers have the right to manage sickness absence within their organisation and it is the case that an employer can terminate an employee’s employment if they are not capable of doing their job but they must first follow a fair procedure.  This includes looking at the possibility of a return to work within a reasonable time frame. They should also consider any reasonable adjustments that would enable the employee to return to work.   If you were dismissed and accepted your dismissal, you would be entitled to receive any holiday/holiday pay accrued during your absence and the proper period of notice - which depends upon your contract and how long you have worked there. I would advise you not to resign as upon resignation. you will lose any work-related benefits connected to your employment. Please do call us for further advice if you are considering resigning as it can have financial consequences also.

    If your question relates in part to any benefits you may receive and the impact of continued absence from work, our Welfare Rights Team will be able to help you. This team is not currently represented on the Ask an Expert forum but can be contacted on 0808 808 0000, options 1, 2 and 2.  They can also be contacted via LiveChat and by email.  Their opening hours are 8am until 8pm Monday to Friday and 9am until 5pm on Saturday and Sunday.

    I hope this has helped 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.

    Kind 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.

  • Thankyou so much for your very detailed response. It's much appreciated. I just don't feel physically and more importantly mentally ready to return to work. For the time being I take each day as it comes and try not to plan too far ahead. 

    Once again thankyou very much 

    Angela xx