Work and cancer - carers FAQs

If you are caring for someone with cancer you may find it difficult to balance work and caring. Here we have some answers to frequently asked questions.

FAQs about working while caring for someone with cancer

You can download our PDF of FAQs about manging work while caring for someone with cancer. It has information about who may be able to help answer your questions.

  • Can I take time off work to go to hospital appointments with the person I am caring for?

    If you are a carer, flexible working could help make it easier for you to keep working while caring for someone. Carers have a legal right to request flexible working. Right now, this right only applies if you: 

    • are an employee
    • have worked for your employer for at least 26 continuous weeks before your request.

    This law is currently in the process of being changed.

    Flexible working arrangements could include:

    • working from home
    • flexible start or finish times
    • compressed working hours – this means working your normal number of hours but over fewer days
    • annualised working hours – this means working your normal number of hours per month or year, in a flexible way
    • job-sharing
    • working part-time
    • flexible annual leave to fit in with alternative care arrangements.
  • Can I take time off in an emergency?

    As a carer, you also have the legal right to take a reasonable amount of time off work to deal with an emergency that involves the person you care for.

    An emergency might include:

    • an unexpected change or problem with care arrangements
    • the person you care for becoming ill, giving birth, being injured, being assaulted or having an accident
    • you needing to make care arrangements when your dependant is ill or injured – this could mean arranging for a temporary carer, but not taking extra time off to care for the dependant yourself
    • the death of a dependant
    • you having to deal with an unexpected incident that involves your child during school hours.

    You do not need to have been in your job for a certain amount of time before you can take time off in an emergency.

  • Where can I learn about my legal rights as a working carer?

    There are laws that protect carers from being discriminated against at work because of their association with a disabled person. If someone has had cancer, the law considers this a disability. Being discriminated against because of your association with a disabled person is called associative discrimination.

  • Does my employer have a policy for supporting carers?

    You should check with your line manager or human resources department, if you have one, to find out if your employer has a policy for supporting carers.

  • What types of paid and unpaid leave are available?

    There are different types of leave you might take. They include, flexible working, time of in an emergency and annual leave.

  • Can I have flexible working?

    Flexible working can help someone with cancer keep working during treatment, or to go back to work after time off. It can also make it easier for carers to keep working while caring for someone.

    Under the Employment Rights Act 1996 and the Work and Families (Northern Ireland) Act 2015, all employees have a legal right to request flexible working. This includes carers. This right currently applies if the person has worked for an employer for at least 26 continuous weeks before their request. This legislation is currently in the process of being changed.

  • What benefits could I get if I continue working, stop working or go back to work?

    If you stop working or reduce your hours, you may have less money coming in. You and the person you care for may be able to get benefits such as Carers Allowance or financial support.

  • If I make adjustments such as working fewer hours, how will this affect my pay and benefits?

    Changing your hours may mean a reduction in pay. It is best to speak to your employer about a change in working hours will affect your par. You can also call our financial guides for free on 0808 808 00 00 for information about benefits.

  • How can I meet other working carers to share my experiences and learn from others?

    Caring for someone can be physically and emotionally demanding. It is important to take care of yourself, as well as the person you are caring for. It can help to know the signs of feeling stressed, and try to recognise them. You can also plan how to deal with stress. You may want to try the following:

    • Ask the hospital or your GP surgery for information that can help you manage the emotional challenges of caring.
    • Call the Macmillan Support Line for free on 0808 808 00 00 to talk to someone about your feelings, and get support. Or visit to find local support.
    • Join the Macmillan Online Community. There is a forum for carers where you can share worries and find people who understand.
    • Find out about some of the organisations and websites that offer practical and emotional support for carers. These include Carers UK and Carers Trust.

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.