Youth Cancer

Working When You Have Cancer

The decision to tell an employer about your cancer is completely up to you. You have no legal obligation to tell them about your life outside work.

  • However, it is wise to let your Human Resources manager or supervisor know. That way you won't have to keep making excuses when you have to attend appointments or are having a bad day.
  • Also, you'll probably need to take time off at some stage for treatment. Not everyone needs to know everything, but you may be pleasantly surprised at how supportive your workmates can be when you tell them.


If you start to experience challenges at work because of your cancer experience, promote some changes that will make it easier for you to keep working. It might help to:

  • have more flexible working hours
  • be able to work from home
  • have special equipment to make your work environment more comfortable
  • temporarily lessen your workload from full time to part time

If you need help explaining things to your employer, ask the appropriate member of your medical team, a union representative, or a cancer support agency for assistance.

You might have access to an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) where you can phone a trained professional for counselling to help you deal with what's going on at work and in life.
If you can't work

  • There will be periods of time when you are not well enough to go to work. This can be boring and depressing for you. However, it doesn't mean you can't be productive over these periods.
  • If you feel well enough you can do some of the things you had been meaning to do but never got around to: brushing up on a computer program, reading up on an area of your industry you want to know more about, sending some long overdue emails, or even writing a few chapters of that book you've been planning to start!


You may also be eligible for extended sick leave, Sickness Allowance payments and other help. Find out what rights you have from your company, a cancer support agency, a union representative, a lawyer or workplace relations.

Looking down the track

  • Cancer may only be a temporary setback, but the disease does have the ability to affect your future career goals. If you're interested in an industry that has certain physical requirements (for example entering the armed services) you should find out if cancer has any implications on that.
  • You can get information from a careers advisor or from an industry representative.
  • It might not be possible to do exactly what you had in mind, but don't be discouraged.

Sometimes career aspirations change out of choice during a cancer journey – because your outlook on life and what's important to you changes. The world is full of options and possibilities. It's just up to you to explore them.