Reasonable adjustments

Cancer and its side effects can impact how you work. Find out about reasonable adjustments that can be made for your job or at your workplace.

What are reasonable adjustments?

If you are in paid employment and have or have ever had cancer, your employer should consider making reasonable adjustments to support you. These are changes to the workplace or your job that allow you to keep working or return to work.

Both the Equality Act and the Disability Discrimination Act say that if your employer is aware of your disability, they must try to make reasonable adjustments.

Your employer must make reasonable adjustments when the workplace or work practices put you at a ‘substantial disadvantage’ because you have cancer. This is compared with colleagues who do not have cancer.

The disadvantage has to be ‘more than minor or trivial’. If they refuse to make any changes, this may be disability discrimination.

You do not have to tell your employer you have cancer. But they do not have to make a reasonable adjustment unless they know or should reasonably know that you have cancer.

For example, if you are behaving differently because of cancer and your employer does not know you have cancer, it is reasonable for your employer to check whether your behaviour is connected to a disability. They can then ask how they might be able to support you.

There is no fixed description of what a reasonable adjustment should be. It will depend on:

  • how much the adjustment will help you
  • how practical it is to make the adjustment
  • the cost of making the adjustment
  • how the adjustment will affect your employer
  • the size of the company or organisation you work for, and the resources it has.

Asking for reasonable adjustments at work

Your employer should talk with you about possible adjustments. You should be involved in every stage. It is best for both you and your employer to work together.

The type of reasonable adjustment always depends on the situation. 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 in the workplace

Reasonable adjustments at work could include:

  • a phased return to work
  • different working hours, such as working part time or having a flexible start or finish time
  • giving you time off to go to medical appointments or for rehabilitation
  • changing your job description to remove tasks that are particularly difficult for you
  • allowing you to do light duties for a time
  • moving you to a job with more suitable duties
  • changing performance targets to allow for any sick leave and side effects, such as tiredness (fatigue).

There may also be practical adjustments your employer can make. These could include:

  • extra breaks to help you cope with tiredness
  • physical aids, such as those that help you lift
  • a quiet place to rest, if you need to
  • a parking space near your work
  • changing where you work – for example, moving your workspace so you can access it easily
  • making sure you can get to the toilet easily
  • installing apps or software to make things easier – for example, if you have difficulty writing, a voice recognition app may be helpful.

We have more information about  coping at work during treatment.

Phased return to work

This is an example of a reasonable adjustment. It is a plan with your employer to slowly increase your hours and return to your usual working pattern over a period of time. This means that you can slowly increase the amount of work you do.

You may need more regular breaks. Talk to your employer to see what adjustments they can put in place. Try to not do too much too soon, especially if your job involves manual work.

Recovery may not always be straightforward. You may have some setbacks or need more support than you thought. Try to stay flexible and talk to your employer if you need more support.

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.