Practical issues

Share experiences and advice on practical issues when living with cancer, such as money, work, benefits, transport, food and drink, organising support at home, or getting specialist equipment.

Flexible working advice

James UK
Posted by

Hi all, 

Apologies in advance if this topic has been covered elsewhere (please direct me to it if so!).

My partner this week received her full pathology for her primary breast cancer and is due to start chemotherapy in a few weeks. We expect her full treatment plan to last five months at least. 

Since she was verbally told a month ago that she has BC I’ve been keeping my work updated (I needed time off to go to her scans and appointments) and I requested a meeting with my bosses to discuss my working arrangements during her treatment. 

I don’t really know where I stand here, the big unknown is how much support my partner will need during her chemo, then mastectomy surgery, possibly more chemo, then radiotherapy. I’m also aware that support levels could fluctuate quite significantly week to week so I find it hard to tell work what exactly I’m asking for. 

How helpful is flexible working in this situation? What about going part time? Would I be expected to take unpaid leave if I didn’t want to use all of my holiday allowance on her care (I would soon run out of days). 

My work has so far been supportive and made the right noises but I feel I need to go into the meeting with a constructive plan, yet I don’t know what support she will need or what exactly my legal entitlements are. FYI, I’ve not so far looked into becoming her official carer. Not sure of the timeframes for this or whether it’s necessary if, as expected, her treatment ends in five months. I’m more than happy to do it though. 

I’m a bit lost (aside from the shock of her diagnosis) and any advice would be greatly appreciated. 

Thanks and best wishes, 

There is a light and it never goes out. 

Posted by

Hello James,

I hope your company are as kind as my husband’s. It is best to be prepared with a meeting with your work, can I suggest reading this section from Macmillan’s information and support section If you are a carer, and perhaps talking things through with the Macmillan support line as a sort of practise or to make sure you have all the info you need. 0808 808 000 open Monday to Friday 9am to 8pm.

My husband did not go down the route of official flexible working but was able to work from home when I needed / or he felt I needed him at home. He reduced his hours when my treatments went from hospital visits once a month to twice every 3 weeks it was just too much for him. (Mine was metastatic melanoma)

I hope you find the best way for both of you over the months.

James UK
Posted by

Thank you KTatHome, 

I work for a major U.K. health research charity so in theory should be in safe ground. 

I’m prepared to work PT if necessary, and my job already allows for working from home. I’m also prepared to take leave for her chemo sessions as I couldn’t reasonably be expected to make up the hours. It’s a step into the unknown but feel it’s best to know where I stand now as I want to focus on care for her when her treatment begins. 

Very best wishes to you 

There is a light and it never goes out. 

Posted by

Hi - just wanted to add that there was a recent rule-change in the UK so I believe that any employee is able to ask for flexible working, and without having to give a reason e.g. parenthood. (I suggest ring the Macmillan helpline to double-check).  I went from 37.5 hours a week to 30 hours a week in 2016, and my employer agreed without asking for a reason.