- Cancer Information
- Living well
- Living well after cancer
- Practical concerns
- Working after treatment ends
Working after treatment ends
Having a job is an important part of life for many people. Aside from income, work can provide satisfaction, social contact, a sense of normality, and a way of maintaining self-esteem.
If you took time off work for treatment and are returning to an existing job, talk to your employer about a return to work plan. It’s a good idea to speak with your doctor about your ability to perform your usual tasks. For some people, returning to the same job may not be possible due to changes in ability and length of time away. The desire to reduce work-related stress or seek more meaningful work may also motivate people to change jobs.
Learn more about:
- Do I have a right to return to my job?
- Must I say I had cancer in job applications?
- What if I can no longer work?
- Discrimination at work
Australian laws require an employer to take reasonable steps to accommodate the effects of an employee’s illness. This may mean, for example, that your employer allows you to return to work in stages, is flexible with start and finish times, gives you time off to attend medical appointments, or provides tailored work tools.
If you are unable to carry out your previous role, your employer doesn’t have to offer you a different job unless your cancer is work-related.
While some people may want to tell a potential employer that they have had cancer, you don’t need to unless it may impact on your ability to do the job. If you are asked about a gap in your résumé, you can say that you had a health issue and it’s now resolved.
A prospective employer is permitted to ask you about your ability to perform tasks that are an essential part of the job (e.g. lifting heavy boxes). If some tasks are a problem for you because of the cancer or treatment, it’s best to mention this at the interview.
If cancer or its treatment has made it impossible for you to return to your previous work, then rehabilitation and retraining programs can prepare you for another job. Your employer may have a rehabilitation scheme or you could discuss this with your GP. You may be eligible for a payout if you have income protection insurance. If you are unable to return to work, contact Centrelink on 132 717 to see if you are eligible for the Disability Support Pension or other payments.
I had planned to work beyond 65, but now I’m thinking I’ll retire sooner. I have different priorities now. I’ve been given a second chance.Julie
A lack of knowledge about cancer may mean some people are treated differently at work after a cancer diagnosis. Employers and colleagues may think you need more time off or wonder about your ability to work and perform your usual role.
Anyone who has had cancer is protected by the Commonwealth Disability Discrimination Act 1992, which prevents employers from discriminating against people with disabilities in the workplace.
For further information and advice:
- speak to a social worker, union official or solicitor
- contact your state or territory anti-discrimination body or visit the Australian Human Rights Commission
- visit the Fairwork Ombudsman
- call 13 11 20, or see Cancer, work and you
- download our Workplace Fact Sheets — these fact sheets assist employers and workplaces to provide a supportive and fair work environment for people affected by cancer.
Podcast for people affected by cancer
Prof Michael Jefford, Medical Oncologist and Director, Australian Cancer Survivorship Centre, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Lucy Bailey, Nurse Counsellor, Cancer Council Queensland; Philip Bullas, Consumer; Dr Kate Gunn, Clinical Psychologist and Senior Research Fellow, Department of Rural Health, University of South Australia, SA; Rosemerry Hodgkin, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council WA; Prof David Joske, Clinical Haematologist, Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital and Clinical Professor of Medicine, The University of Western Australia, WA; Kim Kerin-Ayres, Clinical Nurse Consultant, Cancer Survivorship, Concord Hospital, NSW; Sally Littlewood, Physiotherapist, Seymour Health, VIC; Georgina Lohse, Social Worker, GV Health,VIC; Melanie Moore, Exercise Physiologist and Clinical Supervisor, University of Canberra Cancer Wellness Clinic, ACT; June Savva, Senior Clinician Dietitian, Nutrition and Dietetics, Monash Cancer Centre, Monash Health, VIC; Dr Elysia Thornton-Benko, Specialist General Practitioner and Research Fellow, University of New South Wales, NSW; Prof Janette Vardy, Medical Oncologist, Concord Cancer Centre and Professor of Cancer Medicine, The University of Sydney, NSW; Lyndell Wills, Consumer.
View the Cancer Council NSW editorial policy.