Gentian on rights at work

Gentian was diagnosed with rectal cancer in October 2017. Her employer was very understanding and supportive but they hadn’t had an employee with cancer before so didn’t know

how to support her. Gentian called Macmillan’s Work Support Service to find out about her rights at work and how her employer could support her to return to work when she felt ready.

Gentian's story

Being diagnosed with rectal cancer in October 2017 was a real shock. I had previously had an unrelated breast cancer diagnosis in 2013 so my immediate reaction was ‘why me again?’ I also felt that I was letting my family, friends and employers down by putting them through the stress and inconvenience of having to deal with my diagnosis and treatment.

My role as a Property Manager can be quite stressful at times. I look after the structures and communal areas of blocks of flats and help people to deal with problems they might be experiencing in their homes, like a leak or a fire.

I spoke with my managers as soon as I was diagnosed. They were extremely supportive and understanding. I was given the option of signing off work straight away, but I chose to continue working until my treatment started and was allowed to work from home during this time. I just wanted to keep myself busy and continue as normally as possible for as long as I could.

When I decided to return to work, both my employers and I were unsure about my rights so I called Macmillan’s Work Support Service. The adviser explained that I could request ‘reasonable adjustments’ to help my return and explained what a reasonable adjustment might look like. I was also provided with Macmillan’s Rights at Work and Managing Cancer in the Workplace booklets.

It was really helpful to have this information to hand when meeting with my manager. We used this to agree some adjustments to my hours and duties, including working from home, working fewer hours and adjusting my contract so that my hours were calculated over the month rather than on specific days. These adjustments really helped me to get back into the workplace.

Returning to work was difficult at first, having been off for nearly a year, but I’m really enjoying it. Unfortunately, my cancer has now spread to my lungs so I’m receiving treatment and being regularly monitored. But getting back to work has helped me to regain a sense of normality and made me feel a valued member of my work team. I feel like ‘me’ again.

Get the support you need

If you have cancer and are concerned about how this will affect work, we can help. Find out more about your work rights, or call our dedicated Work Support Service on 0808 808 0000, Monday-Friday, 9am-5pm.

If you are an employer and would like more information about how to support an employee with cancer, we can help. Find out more.