What to do when you return to work after a brain tumour diagnosis

What to do when you return to work after a brain tumour diagnosis

Tue 18 February

When you’re told you have a brain tumour, whether it’s malignant or benign, the prognosis is life-changing.
Although in many cases a brain tumour diagnosis will affect your ability to stay in full-time employment, not everyone has the financial luxury of being able to stop working altogether.

So, what should you do when you return to work after a brain tumour diagnosis? Should you even go back? Although we don’t have every answer, today we want to help you make sense of returning to employment after you’ve been diagnosed with a brain tumour.

Should you go back to work after a brain tumour diagnosis?

We’ll tackle the big question first. Unfortunately, there’s no right or wrong answer. Depending on the severity of your tumour, and your financial position, you may want to see if taking a break from work – or leaving employment entirely – is the right decision for you.

Many people who are diagnosed with malignant brain tumours must give up their jobs, or at the very least reduce their hours and responsibilities. 

You are also likely to need time off for treatment, appointments, and to give yourself time to rest, recover and come to terms with what’s happening to you. 

A good place to start when making the decision on what to do about employment is to speak to someone. The CNS team would be an introduction into the types of conversations that could be helpful to you when making your decision. Discuss with them the types of duties you would undertake at work, such as opening mail, sitting or standing for long periods and times of day you will be expected to work. By talking this through, your medical team will be able to identify if there are any impairments because of your brain tumour and if you will need any adjustments when returning to work. Your medical team will talk through with you if there could be any long-term effects of returning to work and by knowing your goals ahead of time, they will be able to support you in returning to work, while maintaining your physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing.
The YBTC support team (support@YBTC.org.uk) can point you in the right direction. Occasionally this might mean referral onto a social worker to talk with you about benefits and your working rights, or it could be emotional support to help you with the process of dealing with this life change.
How to tell your employee about your brain tumour diagnosis 

Regardless of whether you make the decision to leave employment, it’s important to open conversation with your employer as early as you can. 

Although you don’t legally need to tell them about your diagnosis, unless it affects your ability to do your job or poses a risk while you’re at work, we’d suggest being open and honest from the start. 

Getting the support of your employer should relieve your stress levels and enable them to make workplace adjustments to help you carry on working. 

Before you talk to them, make sure you write down everything you want to say. This will be an emotional conversation and getting everything down on paper will help make sure you cover everything you need to. 

Try and have the conversation with whoever feels most comfortable, typically this is your line manager, a member of the HR team or someone from Occupational Health. Keep the chat informal and take a colleague in with you if you feel you would like support.

The Brain Tumour Charity have a guide called "Telling Your Employer" which offers advice on handling these tricky conversations - to see the guide, click here.
How your brain tumour might affect you at work

Unfortunately, brain tumours are positioned in an area that can affect a lot of the cognitive skills you need to work. These side-effects make it hard to maintain full-time work which can lead to huge change in your professional life that can be difficult to accept.
Some of the most common side effects include:
  • Fatigue
  • Change in speech and difficulty reading social cues
  • Slower processing speed
  • Headaches and blurred vision
  • Partial sight and other visual defects
  • Loss of concentration
  • Mood changes
  • Mobility issues
  • Memory loss
More of the possible side effects can be found on The Brain Tumour Charity website. 

However, many employers will make changes to your working arrangements to help you stay in work for longer. These adjustments can include flexible working, phased return to work, time off to attend medical appointments, reduction in duties, making changes to performance targets, tweaking job descriptions and more. 
What does the law say about returning to work with a brain tumour?

According to Macmillan, UK law considers cancer to be a disability which means you must be treated the same as employees who don’t have cancer. If you’re treated less favourably than employees without cancer, that would be classed as discrimination.
The laws that protect you if you have a brain tumour are:
  • The Equality Act 2010, if you live in England, Scotland or Wales
  • The Disability Discrimination Act 1995 if you live in Northern Ireland
These legislations protect you from different kinds of discrimination including harassment and victimisation.
If you take time off sick because of your diagnosis, you may be entitled to one of the following:
  • Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) – money that all workers can access if they’re too sick to work
  • Occupation or company sick pay – this is your company’s own sick pay scheme. It may give you more money by adding a top-up amount to SSP.
We hope you found our tips on what to do when you return to work after a brain tumour diagnosis helpful. If you have any more to share, please head over to our Facebook page.
Please remember that if you need support you can contact us on 0113 3400111 or by email to info@ybtc.org.uk
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