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You may need to take time off for appointments, treatment and follow-up. In most cases, your employer will give you a reasonable amount of time off work to attend necessary hospital appointments.
If you have been diagnosed with cancer, you are protected by the Equality Act 2010| if you live in England, Wales or Scotland, or the Disability Discrimination Act| if you live in Northern Ireland.
Your employer can make reasonable adjustments to allow you to attend hospital appointments. However, there’s no absolute right to paid time off unless your contract of employment specifically states this.
It will help to give your employer as much warning as possible if you need time off, because if you give very short notice they may be unable to agree to the request. If possible, it can help to arrange appointments for the start or end of the day to keep time away from work to a minimum.
You may also need to take time off during your treatment. This time off may be taken as sickness absence, or an agreed reduction in working hours or days per week. We have more information about taking time off, sick pay| and other financial issues|.
Talking about your need for time off with your employer will mean that they can support you in the best way possible.
Being diagnosed with cancer and having to take time off can make you feel a range of emotions. You may feel angry that you can’t be at work when you have a lot to do. You may also feel guilty if others have to take on some of your work when you’re not there.
When dealing with a cancer diagnosis, people often say that they feel lonely and isolated. These feelings can affect people at different times in their illness. If you’re unable to work for periods of time, this may add to a sense of isolation.
Having cancer can also make you feel very vulnerable. You may feel as though you have lost your independence. You can feel tired| and stressed and it may seem as though things you used to do and find easy are now much more difficult.
Taking a lot of time off can make you feel out of touch with what’s going on at your workplace. You may lose confidence in your ability to do your job well, or you may think that your colleagues are annoyed with you or feel that you’re not pulling your weight. Some people lose a sense of ‘normality’ when they’re not working and some find that they lose self-esteem.
All these things can be hard to cope with, but you may find ways of adapting to your illness and treatment that will give you a new focus and sense of control. This can take some time and your confidence and self-esteem will need to be built up again gradually.
You may find our section about the emotional effects of cancer| helpful.
Talking through your feelings can often help. Some people worry that they are a burden if they ask for help. However, people are usually pleased to be involved and to be able to support you. It can be difficult to know who to talk to and what to say - it’s important to speak to someone you feel comfortable with and can trust.
You may wish to speak to your partner, a family member or friend, a health professional involved in your care, or a trained professional not directly involved in your care, for example a counsellor. Counselling can help people to cope with their feelings| and help them find ways of talking to colleagues. It can also help to restore self-confidence. Some GP surgeries provide counselling and some companies have employee assistance programmes (EAPs), which may help.
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.
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© Macmillan Cancer Support 2013
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