With the new day comes new strength and new thoughts

- Eleanor Roosevelt

Make A Return to Work Plan

Plan ahead and agree a return-to-work plan with your employer. This will not only help you in a practical sense, it will also provide you with peace of mind about re-entering the workplace.

Don’t be afraid to voice any concerns you may have about your ability to do your job. Your employer has a responsibility to help ease you back into the workplace and provide any necessary support. If, for whatever your reason, your employer is not being helpful in this respect, consider approaching your trade union to help you negotiate. The Irish Congress of Trade Unions has specific policies with regard to employees who have or have had cancer and the workplace.

Consider changing your role at work if you feel you can no longer perform your original job. Perhaps you need extra training or a refresher course? Or maybe you would prefer to work from home some of the time? In Ireland, each company has different policies in place for those who have had or have
cancer. Now is the time to enquire about what’s available to you as an employee. It’s a good idea also to schedule regular meetings with your boss in advance. These will help you monitor your progress once you’ve returned to the workplace. It will also provide you with an opportunity to discuss any issues that may arise and work on finding a solution together. You may also need to provide medical certificates so find out in advance what exactly is required.

Returning To Work – What To Expect:

Undergoing cancer treatment is not an easy experience and typically results in side effects. Whether you’re finished the cancer treatment or still under going it, expect it to affect your working ability. You will most likely feel fatigued, especially at first. It’s vital that you don’t overload yourself with work at this time and if at all possible that your return to the workplace is gradual. The last thing you want is to increase your stress levels, so aim to make the experience as stress-free and easy as possible.

Plan A Phased Return To Work:

You may find yourself unsure of exactly what you’ll be capable of once you return to the workplace, or indeed doubting your ability to work after cancer treatment. Bear in mind that this is normal. It’s worth considering a phased return to work, which would allow you to work part-time at first, perhaps working mornings only or three days per week, and therefore easing you back into the workplace. It means you won’t find yourself worn out from work or unable to do your job properly. And you can slowly build up your working hours as your energy increases.
Your employer should inform you of company policy and/or support schemes in place for those who have had cancer or are undergoing cancer treatment. He or she has a legal responsibility to ease you back into the workplace and to make the transition as easy as possible by making reasonable adjustments to your role. This may include giving you time off to attend hospital for treatment, allowing you a flexible work schedule or making temporary or long term adjustments to your role. Discuss a phased return-to-work plan with your employer. Consider his or her needs as much as your own, and find an arrangement that suits both parties.

Switching Roles or Looking for a New Job:

It’s quite common for those who have had cancer, or who are still undergoing treatment for cancer, to switch roles or to change jobs once they return to work. Some find that they’re no longer able for the duties or the stress of the original position. Others simply want a change and a fresh start. Think carefully about your role before you go back to work. It’s normal to have concerns about your ability to do the job after undergoing cancer treatment. Consider whether you’d like to continue in it. Perhaps you’d prefer a less stressful role, one with fewer responsibilities or different duties?

If this is the case, talk to your employer and/or your healthcare provider about your concerns. Discuss your options with your employer and find a solution that suits both of you. If you’re considering changing jobs, think very carefully about the new job and whether or not it could be stressful. If you decide to apply for a new job at this stage, prepare for the interview in advance. Decide whether or not it’s best to inform your new employer about your medical history. Legally in Ireland, an employer cannot discriminate against you because of your illness. If you inform them afterwards about your illness and they withdraw the job offer, this is considered discriminatory.

Going Back to Work after Cancer