Talking to employers and colleagues

Talking about cancer to your employer and your colleagues may feel difficult and you might wonder what you should say or how much information to share.

This page gives information to help you feel confident talking about cancer at work and how Maggie's can help.

Talking to employers

You don't need to tell your employer everything about your cancer if you don’t feel comfortable, but more information will help them understand your situation and support you more effectively.

You may need to talk to several different people, including your line manager, your HR department, occupational health or a trade union representative.

The conversations you have may change over time. Questions may include:

  • What are the policies on sick pay, absence from work, occupational health and pensions?
  • What ways can you support me to stay in work?
  • Who needs to know?
  • Can we talk about what to say to colleagues?
  • Can you help me to tell other people at work?
  • What information do you need to be able to help me?

Talking to colleagues

Telling your colleagues about your diagnosis is a personal choice.

At first, you might not want to. Maybe you feel awkward, want to keep things as normal as possible or not feel up to dealing with their reactions.

However, as time goes on it might be easier if your colleagues are aware of what you're going through. They may notice visible physical changes, that you're having time off or that you need more breaks during the day. 

Although starting conversations can be difficult, there are advantages in letting people at work know:

  • They can understand why you're working or behaving differently
  • They can suggest ideas for how they and other colleagues can help
  • They may have helpful experiences of cancer to share
  • It can help you feel less isolated at work.

You might want to consider who you want to tell, how and when. Your line manager or HR team can you help you plan and can tell people for you if you want.

If some people seem to be avoiding you, it may be because they don’t know what to say or are afraid of saying the wrong thing. Showing them you want to talk openly may help them to understand and feel comfortable asking you questions.

Maggie's is here with you

We can help you think about conversations at work before, during and after treatment. Our Cancer Support Specialists and Benefits Advisors are here listen to your concerns and find the help you need.

We also run Cancer in the Workplace workshops for employers to learn more about the impact of cancer in the workplace.

Last review: Mar 2022 | Next review: Mar 2023

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