- Cancer Information
- Practical concerns
- Cancer, work and you
- For workers
- Making decisions about working
- Employment options
Learn about your different employment options, such as:
Cancer treatment will most likely affect your ability to do your job in some way. This doesn’t mean you will be unable to do your job, but you will probably need some flexibility to make work easier.
Discuss with your employer whether your current role needs to be modified or if flexible working arrangements will help you manage your treatment and side effects. Consider setting out any agreed changes in a plan (similar to a return to work plan).
Ask your treatment team whether they offer very early or late appointments, appointments on weekends, or chemotherapy from home, so that you can fit your treatment sessions around your work. Also check with your treatment team if there are any precautions you need to take in the workplace to protect others.
Cancer and its treatment may affect your ability to drive safely. Doctors have a duty to advise patients not to drive if they are a risk to themselves or others. If you are unable to drive, this may affect your ability to work. Before you start driving again, seek your doctor’s advice.
Some people find working during treatment and recovery difficult and decide to take a break. They may make this decision straightaway or after returning to work and finding it too physically and emotionally difficult.
Discuss your leave options with your employer. You can use paid leave entitlements or ask for unpaid time off. If you decide to take time off, you may want to set up a system for staying in touch with your employer so you know what is happening at work. If you decide to take extended leave, speak to your manager or human resources department. Let them know you would like to return to work when your health improves.
Check your insurance
If you have disability or income protection insurance, you may be able to receive a portion of your income while you are unable to work. You might have taken out a separate policy, or it may be attached to your superannuation or provided by your employer. If you are thinking of resigning from your job, check your insurance coverage first, because leaving work may affect your entitlements. See Cancer and your finances for more detailed information about financial, insurance and superannuation issues.
Some people give up work completely when they are diagnosed with cancer. This might be the right choice for you if you are already close to retirement or if the cancer is advanced.
It is natural to have mixed feelings about retirement. How you feel may depend on your age and your plans before the cancer diagnosis. Some people feel a sense of loss and others worry they’ll be bored.
You may find it helps to talk about these responses with your friends and family, hospital social worker, spiritual leader or counsellor, or call Cancer Council 13 11 20.
Most people take time to adjust to retirement. Making plans for dealing with the impact on your sense of self, finances and relationships can make the change easier. Some people find it helpful to get involved with volunteer work as part of moving into retirement.
With the support of my family and workplace, I was able to schedule the radiation therapy appointments before work.
Kerryann White, Manager, People and Culture, Cancer Council SA; Nicola Martin, Principal, McCabe Curwood, NSW; Jane Auchettl, Coordinator, Education and Training Programs, Cancer Council Victoria; Craig Brewer, Consumer; Alana Cochrane, Human Resources Business Partner, Greater Bank Newcastle, NSW; Shona Gates, Senior Social Worker, North West Cancer Centre, North West Regional Hospital, TAS; Dianne Head, Cancer Nurse Coordinator, Metastatic Breast Cancer, Crown Princess Mary Cancer Centre Westmead, NSW; Alex Kelly, Talent Acquisition Business Partner, Aon, NSW; Prof Bogda Koczwara AM, Senior Staff Specialist, Department of Medical Oncology, Flinders Medical Centre, SA; Sharyn McGowan, Occupational Therapist, Bendigo Health, VIC; Jeanne Potts, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council Victoria; Michelle Smerdon, Legal and Financial Support Services Manager, Cancer Council NSW. We would also like to than the health professionals, consumers and editorial teams who have worked on previous editions of this title.
View the Cancer Council NSW editorial policy.