- Cancer Information
- Practical concerns
- Cancer, work and you
- For workers
- Working while caring
- Talking to your employer
Talking to your employer
You aren’t required to tell your employer that you are a carer. However, talking to your employer about your caring duties may help them to understand and accommodate your needs. It may also help you access carer’s leave and flexible working arrangements.
The Disability Discrimination Act 1992 protects carers of people with cancer from workplace discrimination. This means that you can’t usually be dismissed for taking the caring leave you are entitled to.
Learn more about:
Before talking to your employer, find out about the policies your workplace has for employees with caring responsibilities and what your employment contract, award or enterprise agreement says.
You and your employer might discuss:
- the impact that your caring role is likely to have on your work commitments and career goals
- taking time off or setting up flexible working arrangements
- infection risk (e.g. working from home or wearing a mask) if the person you care for is immunocompromised
- whether the caring role is likely to be short term or long term
- ways your employer may be able to support you
- the benefits for your employer if you stay in your position
- who else at work should know about your situation.
If you tell your co-workers about your caring role, they may be a source of support or provide some ideas for how the team can adapt to your changed needs. Some of your fellow employees may also be working carers. However, if you prefer to keep your caring role confidential, your employer needs to respect your wishes.
If you are thinking about resigning, talk to your employer. They may not want to lose you and may suggest some options to help you remain at work that you hadn’t thought about.
It’s hard to get back into the workforce. I never gave leaving work a second thought, but now I’ve got to focus on rebuilding my own life. It’s like going out in the world for the first time.
Flexible working arrangements
- Carers have the right under the Fair Work Act 2009 to request flexible working conditions such
as adjustments to work hours, work location or pattern of work if they have worked for their
employer for at least 12 months.
- You need to ask in writing, giving details of the change you want and the reasons why you want or need the requested change.
- Your employer must respond in writing within 21 days and give you a reason if they reject your request.
- Your employer may only refuse the request if they have discussed it with you and genuinely tried to reach an agreement with you.
- You can take this to a tribunal if you think that their answer is not fair.
- Suggest realistic and workable options that show you have thought about how the needs of the workplace can also be met.
- Your employer can refuse the request on reasonable business grounds only, and they have to tell you their reasons.
- Talk to your manager or HR department to see if you can arrange some flexible ways of working.
- Many employers are aware of the challenges working carers face. Your manager may try to be
flexible where they can, so it is worth asking.
- Learn more about protections for carers under anti-discrimination laws.
Podcast: Cancer Affects the Carer Too
Brooke Russell, Principal Occupational Therapist, WA Cancer Occupational Therapy, WA; Bianca Alessi, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council SA; Dr Prunella Blinman, Medical Oncologist, Concord Cancer Centre, Concord Repatriation General Hospital, NSW; James Chirgwin, Physiotherapist, The Wesley Hospital, QLD; Danielle Curnoe, Consumer; Simon Gates, Barrister, Tasmanian Bar, TAS; Justin Hargreaves, Medical Oncology Nurse Practitioner, Bendigo Health Cancer Centre, VIC; Kaylene Jacques, Director, People and Communications, Cancer Council NSW; Alex Kelly, Senior People Attraction Advisor, Human Resources, Allianz Australia Insurance, NSW; Legal reviewer; Georgina Lohse, Social Worker, GV Health, VIC; Lesley McQuire, Consumer, Cancer Voices NSW.
View the Cancer Council NSW editorial policy.