Going back to work

Work helps us remain financially independent, gives us a sense of purpose and self-worth; it brings structure to our lives and is a source of social interaction and friendship. It can be a lifeline back to normality and well-being.

However, many cancer patients of working age  struggle to return to their job, dealing with the side-effects of treatment, which can include pain, fatigue, and loss of bowel control, but perhaps also depression and a lack of self-confidence.


There is legislation in place to support cancer patients who wish to return to work. The Equality Act 2010 and the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 protect you from discrimination at work and employers must not treat you less favourably for any reasons relating to your cancer. This includes recruitment, promotion, training, pay and benefits. Your employer must make ‘reasonable’ arrangements to help you return to your job. ‘Reasonable’ depends on the type of work you do and will take into account cost, practicality and how much any arrangement will be effective in helping you perform your role. If adjustments are needed at your workplace, the Access to Work scheme might be able to provide grants for equipment and can sometimes help with the cost of taxis to work. Visit gov.uk/access-to-work


Your human resources manager or occupational health team should be able to support you in gradually getting back to your full hours. They can also advise you about what will happen if your changed personal circumstances have affected your ability to continue in the role you had previously.


You may wish to discuss:

  • taking on light duties or temporarily reduced hours
  • flexible working
  • working from home on certain days
  • allowing extra breaks if you are experiencing fatigue
  • allowing time off for hospital appointments
  • availability of toilet facilities.


For signposting to information on employment rights, welfare benefits and much more, please see our ‘Financial & Employment Support’ and ‘Practical & Emotional Support’ fact-sheets available in publications.