Joanne on rights at work

Joanne talking on the phone. She is wearing a pink jacket and has curly blonde hair.
Joanne talking on the phone. She is wearing a pink jacket and has curly blonde hair.

Joanne was diagnosed with mucinous breast cancer in 2017. Unfortunately, her employer at the time was not supportive.

She contacted Macmillan and received information about work and cancer at her local Macmillan Information and Support Centre in Northern Ireland.

Joanne's story

"Being diagnosed with cancer is a huge shock, especially when I had had no symptoms. When I told my employer that the results of my tests had confirmed that I had breast cancer, their response made me feel that I was inconveniencing them by being ill. I contacted my GP as I didn’t even know how to get hold of a sick line and, recognising that work was affecting me in the run up to surgery, she signed me off work for a minimum of 3 months. In the end, I was off work for 8 months.

"My employer had a policy of paying two weeks’ sick pay, which meant that I was barely home from my first hospital stay before I was reduced from a full-time salary to statutory sick pay. I felt that no one really understood how worried I was about how I was going to manage, financially or emotionally."

Joanne had a Work Support Conversation with a Macmillan Information & Support Manager at her local Macmillan Centre in Northern Ireland to talk through her work and cancer questions. She applied for and successfully got a new job closer to home. Her new employer was very supportive and advised her to make sure that she had recovered fully before taking up her new post.

“I found the Work Support Conversation really useful, as it let me talk to someone outside my usual contacts about work. Before I went for any interviews, I checked with the Equality Commission and Macmillan to see what information I was obliged to reveal to prospective employers. 

"Finding out about my rights at the Work Support Conversation also helped give me the confidence to talk things through with my new employer. I made the decision to hand my notice in and look for another job.  I definitely would recommend the Work Support Conversation service – so much of our identity and sense of worth comes from our jobs.”

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 us on 0808 808 00 00. Lines are open Monday-Friday 9am-8pm. 

In Northern Ireland, our ‘Work Support Conversation’ service offers you the opportunity to discuss things like how to find the words to speak to your employer, understanding your rights and helping you think about what reasonable adjustments might enable you to return to, or remain in work during and after treatment. It also allows you to consider issues you may not have thought about. If necessary, we can direct you to more specialised services that can help you with managing your condition in relation to work. If you are based in Northern Ireland, contact your local Macmillan Information and Support Service to find out more.