If you decide to talk to your employer, the first step is to have a discussion with your manager to tell them about your caring responsibilities.
Your manager should be sensitive to the fact that you’re coping with a cancer diagnosis. It can be a very difficult time and often turns lives upside down. They should allow you to explain the situation in your own way.
You can request that a colleague, friend, trade union or employee representative attends the meeting with you. Anyone attending the meeting should respect your privacy and the confidentiality of what is being discussed.
Your manager may choose to make notes at the meeting. If they do, and you would like a copy of them, ask your manager. They should not share the notes with anyone else without your permission. You may also want to make your own notes.
Typically, this first discussion may cover topics such as:
- your reaction to becoming a working carer and, in particular, any immediate work issues or concerns
- who knows about your situation, who you would like to know, and who needs to know
- whether, and how, you would like other managers and colleagues to be told, and what you would like to be said.
Your employer will want to get some idea of the likely impact of your caring responsibilities on your ability to attend work and fulfill your work duties. It will help to be prepared to talk about this in general terms. You may need to explain to the employer that cancer treatment doesn’t always follow a smooth course and that last-minute changes may happen.
At this initial stage, you should begin to think about ways of doing your job that will suit both you and your employer.
The company will want to hear your thoughts about:
- the likely impact that being a carer will have on you personally – and your ability to do your job – in the short-, medium- and long-term
- how you think you will manage your work commitments while you are a carer.
If the company has a policy of no private internet use, you may want to discuss this at the meeting. For example, you might need to email the hospital or other people who care for the person with cancer during work hours. You may also want to talk about the possibility of accessing a private place to make and receive phone calls.
Your employer will be trying to balance the following things:
- Work and time off. Cancer treatment doesn’t always go exactly to plan. Your plans will constantly change as you know more about the situation, and as treatment progresses.
- Company policies and procedures regarding carers (where they exist), and your specific needs as an employee. If your employer doesn’t have procedures in place for carers, your manager may find the situation difficult as they may have to make decisions without guidance. They may benefit from ordering our Work and cancer toolkit, which contains information for both employers and employees. If there are already procedures in place at your place of work, you employer may need to apply them flexibly. The human resources department should also be aware of your legal rights as a carer, including flexible working, time off and emergency leave.
- How much you want your other managers and colleagues to know about the situation, and how your manager can work with you to tell them.
- The workload of your team. If you will need to have regular time off to carry out your carer responsibilities, this is likely to impact the rest of the team.