There’s a common misconception that people with cancer are too ill to work. But thanks to medical advances, with a bit of help from their employer, many people can continue working while undergoing treatment.

For the person diagnosed with cancer or caring for someone with cancer, work can provide them with much-needed income, social contact and a sense of normal life. By working hard to support and retain employees experiencing illness, organisations benefit by retaining talent and corporate knowledge, building team morale and inspiring loyalty. (Those who hire people with disability report similar benefits)

Some employees may take a leave of absence to receive treatment. Having high quality workplace relationships is linked to a more positive return to work experience, and so is having contact with their employer during their time away. [1] As an employer or co-worker, it’s important to acknowledge and prepare for the challenges that might arise when a recovering employee returns to work. Employers might feel helpless and unsure of the appropriate amount of work to assign to the returning team member or how to make work task adjustments, particularly if the transition takes longer than expected. [2] Co-workers may face increased workloads if a person returns on reduced hours or responsibilities.

To learn how you can make it easier for patients, carers and survivors to keep working or return to work, check out these fact sheets from Cancer Council.


[1] Skaczkowski G, Asahina A and Wilson C (2021) ‘Returning to work after cancer in Australia: what facilitates a positive return to work experience?‘, Journal of Occupational Rehabilitation, 31:41–49.

[2] Petersen KS, Momsen AH, Stapelfeldt CM and Nielsen CV (2019) ‘Reintegrating employees undergoing cancer treatment into the workplace: a qualitative study of employer and co-worker perspectives‘, Journal of Occupational Rehabilitation, 29:764–772.