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Many people choose not to work during their treatment. Going back to work after a break of a few weeks or months can be difficult. You may feel that you’re able to go back to your old job, but may feel nervous about it.
It’s common for people to feel awkward and to wonder if they’ll still be able to do the job, and how people will react to them. For some people, going back to work can help them to feel that the cancer is over and that they can return to normal life.
When you plan to go back, it will help to have a meeting with your employer or human resources department adviser. If you’re still coping with some of the effects of cancer treatment, you can discuss any changes that can be made to your work to help you.
If your workplace has an occupational health adviser, your manager can arrange for you to see them and agree a ‘return to work’ plan. The adviser can see you from time to time until you are fully back at work.
If you feel that things have moved on while you were away, you may want to ask for time or training to catch up with the developments.
If you can, plan to return gradually. Try to decide what’s most important, and just do those parts of your work until you feel stronger. Give yourself regular rest breaks - you can even schedule them into your diary as appointments. There may be a temptation to push yourself too far, too quickly, for example if you’re a manual worker such as a bricklayer or mechanic. If you’ve had treatment for a brain tumour then it will usually be at least a year before you will be allowed to drive again.
It also helps to remember that recovery may not always be straightforward. You may have some setbacks or a change in circumstances along the way, so try to remain flexible.
If you need to make adjustments to your workplace because of the effects of the cancer and its treatment, you may be eligible for financial help from the Access to Work scheme|. The scheme provides advice and support with extra costs that may arise because of your health needs.
If you feel that you can’t cope with your old job and would like to reduce your hours (go part-time) or need to change your job description, you should discuss this with your employer or the human resources department as soon as possible. They should be willing to be flexible about your work arrangements to allow you to go on working as much as you can. They are required to consider this under the Equality Act 2010| or the Disability Discrimination Act| if you live in Northern Ireland.
If you’re considering going back to work after treatment, it’s important to think about the following:
We have more information about benefits, pensions and tax credits in our financial issues| section.
If you want to go back to work after some time away and you have been claiming benefits, there are options you will need to consider.
Many issues are taken into account when assessing benefits, so it’s only possible to give general information here. Each person’s entitlement has conditions specific to their situation, taking into account age, savings, income, hours worked, number of people in the family, childcare costs and housing costs.
It’s possible to be eligible for more than one benefit at the same time, but some benefits can’t be paid together.
It’s essential that you take advice from an experienced benefits adviser. You could call one of our cancer support specialists|, Citizens Advice or a welfare rights worker. You can check if there’s a benefits adviser in the social work department at your hospital. You should check your entitlement to benefits and tax credits to work out whether your income will be higher with these or if you go back to work.
You will need to know:
Disability Living Allowance| (care and mobility components) and Attendance Allowance| can both be paid whether or not you are working.
Eligibility for both allowances depends on your care needs (care component) and your inability to walk (mobility component). For example, if your walking improves and/or you need less help with personal care, this could affect your entitlement to Disability Living Allowance. The Department for Work and Pensions| may re-assess the rate you are paid.
The higher rate of the mobility component of the Disability Living Allowance allows you an exemption from road tax and entitles you to a Blue Badge| parking concession . You can also use the higher rate of the component to buy or lease a car under the Motability Scheme|.
Prescription charges| for people with cancer have changed. Prescriptions are free in Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland.
People with cancer in England are eligible for free prescriptions. All people undergoing treatment for cancer, or the effects of cancer or its treatment, can apply for an exemption certificate by collecting a form FP92A from their GP surgery or oncology clinic.
You can claim a reduction of your council tax if you have special provisions for the disabled in your home. Benefits that can top-up a low income include:
If you receive Employment and Support Allowance|, this will stop if you go back to work. It’s important to review your situation after a few weeks. If you’re finding it difficult to continue to work, you may re-qualify for Employment and Support Allowance at the same rate and on the same basis as before, if you make a new claim within 12 weeks.
Generally, Employment and Support Allowance is paid on the basis that you‘re unable to work because of illness or disability. But there are some types of work you may be able to do within certain limits. This is called ‘Permitted Work’ and allows you to see how you get on with some types of work and perhaps learn some new skills.
You will need to check that what you want to do is covered by the Permitted Work rules. These say you can:
If you do Permitted Work, you may have to pay tax on the extra income. You will need to tell HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC)| when you start work. Other benefits such as Housing Benefit or Council Tax Benefit may also be affected. It’s best to discuss this with an adviser at your local Jobcentre|. They can also tell you about local schemes to help people back into work.
Content last reviewed: 1 May 2011
Next planned review: 2013
For answers, support or just a chat, call the Macmillan Support Line free (Monday to Friday, 9am-8pm)
If you have any questions about cancer, need support or just want someone to talk to, ask Macmillan.
Macmillan has created a number of resources to help employees affected by cancer in the workplace.
If you have any questions about Macmillan we would love to hear from you| .
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© Macmillan Cancer Support 2013
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