6 mins. read

What is the average time off work after a diagnosis of cancer?

Average Time Off Work With Cancer | Perci Health

Key Takeaways

  • Everyone is different: How long you take off work will depend on your circumstances, the type of cancer you have and the stage of your diagnosis, amongst other things.
  • Employment rights protect you: The Equality Act 2010 and the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 prevent you from discrimination or unfair treatment.
  • You may be entitled to sick pay: Most employees will be entitled to 28 weeks of statutory sick pay (SSP) if they are off work for more than four days in a row.

If you have recently been diagnosed with cancer, it’s understandable if you have been worrying about how this may affect your ability to work and what this may mean for your income and job stability.

Most people with cancer will need time off work at some point to attend appointments or undergo treatment. In addition, some people may feel too unwell to continue working because of treatment side effects or the cancer itself.

How much time you take off work is very personal, and will be based on many factors such as; the type of cancer you have, the stage of your diagnosis, your treatment plan, financial considerations, and your emotional and physical wellbeing.

In this guide, we discuss the options you have for taking time off work, how these may affect your take-home pay and where you stand in terms of your employment rights.

How long will I be off work with cancer?

The average amount of time taken off work with cancer varies from person to person. It’s one aspect of a cancer diagnosis that is difficult to navigate and is influenced by many factors.

However, some research has been conducted on the average time off with breast cancer. This study looked at work absences of four weeks or more amongst people who had been diagnosed with breast cancer. Researchers looked at data from the three years following their diagnosis and compared this to people  who had never had cancer. The findings indicated that most of the  people with breast cancer took time off work and the average amount of leave was six months.

If you have received a cancer diagnosis and are about to start or are undergoing treatment, pay attention to your body and how you are feeling. You will need adequate time to rest and recuperate. Try not to push yourself too much as this could leave you feeling even more fatigued. 

Working during cancer treatment

Many people continue working during cancer treatment. Some want to stay at work so that they can maintain a sense of normalcy and have something to focus on, whilst others feel they need to continue working to maintain their income.

It can be a difficult decision to make but if you wish to continue working, it can be beneficial to tell your employer about your cancer diagnosis. By being aware of your circumstances, your employer can help support you in the workplace and facilitate adjustments if and when the time comes that you need them.

Taking time off work

After receiving a cancer diagnosis, there are many reasons why you might need to take time off work. Medical appointments are likely to be a prominent one and these may be scheduled during work hours. You may need time off for your mental health and to process your situation or you may feel poorly after treatment and be physically unable to work.

Depending on how much time you require off work and the reason for this, different options may be available to you.

Flexible arrangements

If you require small amounts of time off to attend hospital appointments, you might be able to work out a flexible working arrangement with your employer. Many employers will grant time off for such a purpose, but they aren’t legally required to do so. Even if they do let you take leave for an appointment, they might ask you to make the time up or take the time off unpaid.

When living with cancer, you might also experience fatigue and have days where you aren’t able to manage your usual duties. Discuss the possibilities that are available with your employer as you may be able to work from home, change the scope of your role or reduce your hours, even if only temporarily.

Annual leave

If you need a slightly longer period of absence, then you might be able to use accrued holiday days. By law, employees have the right to be paid for holiday days so this option should mean that you would receive the same amount of pay as you normally would when in work.

Sick leave

You also have the option to take sick leave. You can self-certify for the first seven days of any period of sick leave. If you have been off sick for more than four days in a row, you may be eligible for statutory sick pay (SSP). If eligible, in the UK you can receive SSP of £99.35 for up to 28 weeks.Your employer may also have their own sick pay policy so it’s worth asking for copies of these to check what you are entitled to.

Returning to work

If you have been off work due to cancer, you may reach a stage where you are ready to return. Discuss this with your doctor first and if they approve, reach out to your employer, and arrange a meeting or phone call to discuss your return.

By law, cancer is considered a disability and individuals remain protected even once in remission. This means that when returning to work, your employer should make reasonable adjustments that support you. Reasonable adjustments may include a phased return, reduced hours, a job share, retraining or something else.

Our employer page provides more insight into how employers can support employees with cancer. As an individual, can get comprehensive cancer care, including bespoke advice and guidance from leading cancer experts with Perci Health. Our range of cancer experts includes NHS-trained cancer nurses, registered dietitians, psychologists, physiotherapists, menopause practitioners and many more. You can view information about them, and book, manage and attend online appointments, all from the comfort of your own home, by creating a Perci account today.