Making decisions about work after treatment

Deciding what to do about work after you have finished cancer treatment can depend on your situation. Find out more about the choices you may need to make.

Thinking about work after treatment

What you decide to do about work after your treatment finishes depends on your situation. You may:

  • stop working for a while, until you feel ready to go back
  • carry on working, perhaps with reduced hours or changes to your job (reasonable adjustments)
  • change jobs or careers
  • stop working because of your health
  • stop working because you want to focus on other parts of your life.
Related pages

Returning to work

During and after treatment, returning to work can help you feel like you are getting back to normal. But it can be a big step and is not right for everyone. 

You may have questions about what to expect and the support available for you and your employer. Our information about returning to work has more detail.

Making reasonable adjustments

Reasonable adjustments are changes to the workplace or your working arrangements that allow you to keep working or return to work.

If your employer is aware you have had cancer, they must consider making reasonable adjustments to help you return to work. It is important that you discuss any reasonable adjustments with your employer. You should agree on them before they are put in place.

Reasonable adjustments could include a phased return to work or different working hours. There may also be practical adjustments your employer can make. These could include extra breaks to help you cope with tiredness or a parking space near your work.

Make sure you are fully involved in any decisions about your return to work. It can be helpful to write notes in your meetings. You may also want someone to come to the meetings with you. They can support you and help you remember what was said.

We have more information about reasonable adjustments.

Finances when returning to work

Before you go back to work, you may need to think about how this will affect your finances. You can contact Macmillan’s financial guides for free on 0808 808 0000. They can help you understand your options.

If your mortgage or any loans were being paid by an insurance policy, this will end when you go back to work. If you are thinking of working part time, check how much money you need to cover your monthly outgoings.

You build up annual leave while you are on sick leave. You could use this during a phased return to work if your employer does not pay full wages during this time.

It is important to talk to your employer about any restrictions on carrying holidays over from one year to the next. For example, you can ask them how many days can be carried over and whether they need to be used by a certain time.

Check if you have any income from occupational pensions, private pensions or life assurance. You might be able to freeze, transfer or cash in a pension.

If you have been out of work for a long time and have money problems, StepChange Debt Charity can give you advice.

If you have been claiming benefits

Whether you are entitled to benefits depends on your situation. Returning to work will change this. Certain benefits may stop. But you may still get other benefits.

You may need to think about how much you need to earn to cover the loss of benefits. The number of hours you work could have an effect on your benefits.

It is important to get advice from an experienced benefits adviser. You can call our welfare rights advisers for free on 0808 808 0000. You can also check if there is a benefits adviser at your hospital.

Citizens Advice in England, Scotland and Wales, and Advice NI in Northern Ireland can give you advice too.

Finding a new job

Looking for a new job after cancer treatment can be a positive part of your recovery. You may decide to return to the kind of work you did before, but with a different employer. Or you may want a change of career.

You may wonder if you need to tell a new employer whether you have or have ever had cancer:

  • If you live in England, Scotland or Wales

    The Equality Act 2010 covers this. It says that the company you are applying to can ask about disability, but they must follow the law.

  • If you live in Northern Ireland

    Employers can ask applicants about their health. But the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 says they cannot discriminate against you because of your disability.

We have more information about finding a new job.

Not returning to work after treatment

You may decide to stop working after cancer treatment. You might:

  • want to focus on recovery and time with family or friends
  • spend more time to do things that are important to you
  • think about early retirement.

We have more information about stopping work.

If you are self-employed

If you are self-employed you may need to make decisions about how to keep your business going after cancer treatment. Or you may decide to close your business.

Returning to work

If you are not sure when you might be ready to go back to work, try to give yourself options. If you can, plan to return to work gradually.

It may help to remember that your recovery may not always be straightforward. Try to stay flexible.

Closing your business

Deciding to give up your business after treatment finishes is a big step. There are practical and legal things to think about.

If you decide to close your business, speak to a financial adviser. Take the time to think through your options. You can contact one of Macmillan’s financial guides for free on 0808 808 0000. Or you can go search for a financial adviser online

We have more information about making decisions about your business.

Discrimination at work

If you have or have ever had cancer, the law considers this a disability. This means you cannot be treated less favourably than people who do not have cancer because you have cancer. You also cannot be treated less favourably for reasons connected to the cancer. That would be discrimination. 

We have more information about discrimination at work.

About our information

  • Reviewers

    This information has been written, revised and edited by Macmillan Cancer Support’s Cancer Information Development team. It has been approved by Michelle Rouse Griffiths, Professional Development and Knowledge Lead, Macmillan Cancer Support.

    Our cancer information has been awarded the PIF TICK. Created by the Patient Information Forum, this quality mark shows we meet PIF’s 10 criteria for trustworthy health information.

The language we use

We want everyone affected by cancer to feel our information is written for them.

We want our information to be as clear as possible. To do this, we try to:

  • use plain English
  • explain medical words
  • use short sentences
  • use illustrations to explain text
  • structure the information clearly
  • make sure important points are clear.

We use gender-inclusive language and talk to our readers as ‘you’ so that everyone feels included. Where clinically necessary we use the terms ‘men’ and ‘women’ or ‘male’ and ‘female’. For example, we do so when talking about parts of the body or mentioning statistics or research about who is affected.

You can read more about how we produce our information here.

Date reviewed

Reviewed: 01 September 2023
Next review: 01 September 2026
Trusted Information Creator - Patient Information Forum
Trusted Information Creator - Patient Information Forum

Our cancer information meets the PIF TICK quality mark.

This means it is easy to use, up-to-date and based on the latest evidence. Learn more about how we produce our information.