6 mins. read

Managing work whilst caring for someone with cancer

Managing work whilst caring for someone with cancer

Key Takeaways

  • You don’t have to tell your employer: But by letting them know, you might be able to arrange flexible working or take paid or unpaid leave.
  • Seek extra support if you need to: If you are struggling, reach out to friends, family, charities, and other organisations. They might be able to help with practical tasks or provide temporary care.
  • Look after your own wellbeing: Remember to take time for yourself to rest and to do things you enjoy.

Balancing work and your personal life can be difficult but if you are also a carer for a loved one with cancer, juggling it all can be particularly challenging.

However, there are things you can do and options available which can help.Here at Perci Health, we have put together a guide on how to cope with work and caring for someone with cancer, advice on how you can approach the subject with your employer and ways you can get additional support if you are struggling.

Balancing work and caring for someone with cancer

Finding out that someone you love has cancer can have a big impact on your life. Alongside the emotions it can cause, you can also find yourself stepping into a caring role whilst still working and managing your personal life. 

If you aren’t sure how to balance it all, you aren’t alone. Here are some things you can do to help prevent yourself from becoming overwhelmed:

  • Make use of organisational tools: If you aren’t already using a planner, then this could be a good way of helping you keep track of your work schedule, your loved one’s appointments, and other things you need to do. It doesn’t even have to be a physical diary; you can use the calendar on your phone or an online app instead.
  • Be realistic about how long thinks take: Give yourself enough time to get things done and avoid overscheduling yourself.
  • Learn to say ‘no’: This can be hard if you are usually an accommodating person, but it’s ok to turn down invitations or tell your manager that you can’t take on extra duties or do overtime.
  • Care for yourself: It can be easy to ignore your own needs and put work and caring duties ahead of your own wellbeing, but this isn’t sustainable. Ensure you get enough sleep, fuel your body, and make time for rest and leisure.
  • Consider your options: Think about whether you can change your role or working hours, even if only temporarily. Also, consider how you can create a support network for yourself. The more in control you feel of your schedule, the less pressure you are likely to feel.

Telling your employer

You don’t have to tell your employer that someone you love has cancer but it can be helpful for you to do so. Many employers will be understanding of your situation and may have even experienced similar themselves.

How you approach telling your employer will depend on your role, your relationship with them and what you are comfortable sharing. You might want to start with an informal chat with your line manager before having a more formal discussion or you may prefer to send an email to HR to explain your circumstances, ask about the company’s policies and find out what options are available to you.

Options for time off

You may find you need time off work to help your loved one with daily tasks or to take them to appointments. You and your employer may be able to agree on a working arrangement that allows you to take the time off you need. Such arrangements may include:

  • Compressed hours
  • Reduced hours
  • Working from home
  • Term time only hours
  • Taking annual leave
  • Unpaid leave
  • Compassionate leave

The Work and Families Act 2006 and the Employment Rights Act 1996 also give employed carers the right to request flexible working. As an employee, you are also permitted to take ‘reasonable’ time off for emergency situations involving a dependent. Dependents include children, a spouse, parents, or anyone else who relies on you for care. Physical illnesses such as cancer are classed as emergency situations, and you can take time off even if your loved one doesn’t require full-time care.

How much time is deemed as ‘reasonable’ is something that you and your employer will need to agree on. Your employer doesn’t have any statutory obligation to pay you for this time off, but they may have company policies that stipulate they will.

Getting extra support

Being an unpaid carer can be hard and it’s completely normal if you find yourself struggling. If you need emotional, financial, or practical support when caring for someone with cancer, there are places you can go and people you can turn to.

Family and friends can be great sources of support. Try reaching out to them to see if they can lend a hand. They might be able to help with household chores, cook a meal or run errands such as picking up a prescription. If there’s something specific you need help with, don’t be scared to ask; the other person can then decide if they have the capacity to accept your request.

There are a range of charities and organisations that can also provide advice and support. For example, Macmillan has an online community and organises local events that provide emotional support for carers. Marie Curie cancer nurses can provide in-home support for terminal and end-of-life cancer patients and their families.

If you are caring for a loved one for more than 35 hours a week, you may also be eligible for financial support in the form of a carer’s allowance.

If you aren’t sure of what support you need or are entitled to, organisations like Carers UK and Maggie’s have plenty of accessible information and people that you can talk to.

Here at Perci Health, we are here to support anyone that has been impacted by cancer. If you think you or your loved one could benefit from virtual access to high-quality cancer specialists, find out more about our support types or how we help those supporting someone with cancer.