- Cancer Information
- Practical concerns
- Cancer, work and you
- For workers
- Returning to work after treatment
- Changing jobs
A cancer diagnosis may make you reconsider your career goals and work values. For some people, returning to the same job may not be possible due to changes in ability or length of time away. You may decide changing jobs is an opportunity for a fresh start. The desire to reduce work-related stress or seek more meaningful work may also be a motivating factor to change jobs.
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Before looking for a new position, you may want to consider:
- Does my illness mean I need to look for a new line of work?
- What abilities, skills and experience can I offer a new employer?
- Will I need to update my skills or education?
- Is there a market for someone with my skills in my chosen field?
- Would I be happy with a lower-level position or fewer hours?
- Can I afford to live on a lower salary?
- How would I manage the stress of a change in employment?
- Does my confidence need a boost?
- Will I need more support (e.g. new equipment or extra breaks)?
- How many hours a week am I able to work?
- Will I need to tell a potential or new employer about my cancer treatment?
Think about different ways of working, such as job-sharing, volunteering, self-employment, part-time or agency work. Discuss your options with co-workers and referees who are familiar with your work and can be honest about your skills. You could also talk with a career counsellor, our Legal, Financial and Workplace Referral Services on 13 11 20, or a JobAccess adviser on 1800 464 800.
- Consider seeing a career counsellor or social worker to practise some job interviews. They can help you identify your strengths, skills and abilities.
- Think about what you may say if asked about a gap in your rÃ©sumÃ© (CV). Some people write “career break” rather than leaving the gap unexplained.
- Keep explanations general and straightforward – don’t tell a longwinded story. You might want to say that you took some time off for personal reasons.
- If you are asked a direct question about your health history, consider answering: “I had a health or family issue, but it’s resolved now”, “I have no health problems that would affect me performing this job” or “I have medical clearance to perform this type of work”.
- If you have an obvious physical impairment, consider letting the interview panel know how you are able to perform the specific job responsibilities.
- Being up-front with your employer can make it easier to negotiate any necessary modifications to the workplace or time off for medical appointments.
- If you don’t get the job and you believe it is because of the cancer diagnosis and treatment, you can complain to the employer, the discrimination agency in your state or territory, the Australian Human Rights Commission or the Fair Work Ombudsman. However, these types of complaints are often unsuccessful as it’s hard to prove why you weren’t hired.
At the time of the diagnosis, I was working as an office manager, but afterwards we reassessed our life. I changed jobs and we moved house. I now work in aged care, which I love.
While you may want to tell a potential employer that you have had cancer, you don’t have to unless it may impact on your ability to do the job. You only need to let the employer know about:
- anything that may affect your ability to perform tasks that are an essential part of the job, e.g. if you can lift heavy boxes or drive a car
- any health and safety risks for yourself or others
- any adjustments you may need to help you do your job, e.g. ergonomic tools or a height-adjustable bench.
There will probably be a gap in your rÃ©sumÃ© (CV) if you did not work during cancer treatment. Be prepared for a potential employer to bring this up. It’s common for people to have breaks in their employment history because of travel, having children or other personal reasons, so the employer may not ask about it. Your employer does not need to know details about your personal life unless it is relevant to the job.
If you are unable to return to your previous job after treatment:
- you may be able to attend a rehabilitation or retraining program to prepare you for another job
- you may be eligible for a payout if you have disability insurance or income protection insurance
- you may consider retiring
- you may be able to get support through the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) if your disability is permanent and significant; for more information, call 1800 800 110
- contact Centrelink on 132 717 to see if you are eligible for the Disability Support Pension or other payment.
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.
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