You may want to keep working for as long as you can because you love your job or feel you have to because you need the money. You may give up work completely to do something you enjoy more or because you feel too unwell. Everybody is different, and there is no right or wrong in this situation.
I have had to adjust my working schedule and change my career aspirations but have found fulfilment with the work I do. A lot less stress has helped my body to respond positively to treatment. It has also enabled me to enjoy my life and develop relationships more deeply and positively.
Keep working unless you don’t like it or it is too stressful, because that is one way to maintain a social network.
If you want to work, do so. It helps mental wellbeing and keeps your mind busy with many other things.
If you remain at work, your employer may be able to help by reducing your hours or by adjusting your role.
It is important to keep in contact with your employer and to find out about your entitlements, including any paid and unpaid leave that may be available to you.
Through my experience I think it is important for anyone coping with a chronic illness to know their employment rights from the beginning. My employer was fantastic until a change in management when my affairs were handled very surreptitiously. If I had my time again, I would like to have been counselled about my rights. I would have handled things differently. No one in my situation should have to go to Equal Opportunity to fight for their rights. Most would find this too daunting to even try.
If you are self-employed, you might be able to ease your workload by asking a staff member to step up into your role temporarily, employing someone else and/or reducing your work hours.
If you are receiving a Centrelink payment and decide to return to work, you are required to tell Centrelink in case this has an impact on your payment.
For many young people, work can be an important source of meaning, income and wellbeing. You may want to keep working for as long as you can because you enjoy your job or because it gives you financial security. Or you may want to give up work to concentrate on other things in life. Sometimes you may have to give up work because you are too unwell. Every person’s experience and priorities are different.
I took 18 months leave from work. I wanted my hair to have grown before I went back. I also reduced my working hours to better suit me and my family.
It has been hard to give up my career to focus on treatment.
If you are planning to return or stay at work, your employer can help you by making adjustments to your work duties or changing your hours.
Although it may sometimes feel uncomfortable to disclose a diagnosis, the benefit of telling your employer is that they can assist you in making any adjustments that are needed to help you.
It is important to communicate regularly with your employer and to agree on a return-to-work plan if you are returning after a period of leave. It is also important to find out about your entitlements and rights.
If you have children, returning to work can mean securing child care. A range of services are available to assist working parents with child care. See Finding support for child care.
Most employers are supportive when an employee is diagnosed with breast cancer.
However, if you are worried that your employer is not understanding, or you think you are in danger of losing your job after disclosing your diagnosis, you can talk to an adviser at the office of Fair Work Ombudsman. They can provide advice on your rights and your employer’s obligations and also investigate any complaints. You can talk to an adviser online at the Fair Work Ombudsman website or by calling 13 13 94. The website has useful information about the rights and responsibilities of both employees and employers.
If you are experiencing workplace bullying or harassment, you may want to contact the Fair Work Commission on 1300 799 675. They deal with issues such as bullying and unfair dismissal.
You may also consider talking to an employee representative or union representative in your workplace.
The Cancer Council also has a program which provides free legal, financial and workplace advice to people affected by cancer who cannot afford to pay for advice. For more information see the Cancer Council website in your state or territory:
Alternatively, you can phone the Cancer Council Information and Support Line on 13 11 20.
As you think about your work situation – either planning to stop, pause or return to work – you may find the following tips helpful:
Establish a return-to-work plan with your employer and review it with them regularly.
Look at options for flexible/part-time work arrangements.
Notify employers in advance of any leave you may need to take.
To assist with memory and concentration, take notes and use a calendar and diary regularly.
Keep a diary of meetings, tasks, important conversations with your employer and any leave you have taken.
Some employers offer employee assistance programs. These programs provide short-term counselling and emotional support, free of charge for employees.
BCNA's booklet Helping a friend or colleague with breast cancer contains a section particularly for the workplace that provides some helpful suggestions for managers and workplace colleagues.
Find out whether you can access superannuation early or benefit from insurance policies that are part of your super
When looking for work after breast cancer, know what an employer can ask and find tips about disclosure and interviews
When your employee is off work for breast cancer treatment, create a 'return to work' plan so you can discuss and agree the best way forward
Sharing your breast cancer diagnosis with your employer can be difficult. This information can help you through the process
You may qualify for an early claim to superannuation and/or insurance policies and access these earlier than retirement