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Tips and tools for people taking care
of someone with (breast) cancer
and working
Working while caring isn’t an easy task. Employers and fellow employees might just not get it!

Trying to be on time with work tasks and to also be a devoted carer generates stress, which is not always easy to manage. A key factor to combine work and care is to raise awareness among your colleagues and employers. Sometimes people do not realise what you are going through; they may often need more information! Work and care reconciliation is the topic of this section. You will find advice on this so challenging issue.

It may feel as if you are juggling two jobs when you are holding down a paid job and caring for a friend or relative but work can be important for your wellbeing, income and for maintaining social contacts.

There are things you can do to cope with the pressures of work and care. As a working carer you are likely to need some support at work, and often different levels of support at different times – from access to a telephone to check on the person you care for, to taking leave to help out when someone is being discharged from hospital.

The good news is that carers have some statutory rights and more and more employers are realising the benefits of supporting carers.

More employers are realising the
benefits of supporting carers

Carers’ rights at work

You may have the following rights guaranteed:

The right to request flexible working
The right to time off in emergencies
The right to parental leave if you have a child
The right not to be discriminated against or harassed.

Your employment status can affect your entitlement to these rights. If, for example, you are self-employed, on a short-term contract or employed through an agency you may not be covered by these rights. If this applies to you it is important to seek advice.

In addition to your statutory rights, your employer may offer more support. This will be outlined in your contract and the organisation’s policies. For example, you may be able to use leave arrangements, paid or unpaid, at the discretion of your employer to cover intensive periods of care.

Statutory rights

If you are thinking of giving up work, a career break (or sabbatical) allows you to keep your options open, ensuring you can go back, and keeping you in touch with the world of work. Some employers offer paid and/or unpaid career breaks, often after a specified period of service with them, so check your organisation’s policies.

Career breaks

Sometimes the support you need is very simple like access to a telephone or information and advice. Many carers find the ability to work flexibly is the most helpful kind of support, so speak to your manager about this. Flexible working can include working from home, compressed hours (e.g. working longer but fewer days) or starting and finishing work earlier/later.

Flexible working

Thinking of leaving work?

If you are thinking of leaving work it is important
to consider the full implications.

Think about the things you would be giving up, and whether you really want to lose them:

Will you manage with less money?

Do you want to give up the independence and social contact you have through your work?

Will you lose valuable skills if you leave?

How would leaving work affect your future pension entitlement?

Then think about ways around the problem, could you:

Make a request for flexible working?

Take a career break?

Take paid or unpaid leave to think about your long-term options?

Ask for extra help from social services?

Buy in care?

Get more help form friends, family or neighbours?

Remember that employers value skilled, experienced and committed members of staff and are keen to keep them. Your employer may be able to help in ways you have not considered. Talk to them about your situation, directly or through your HR/personnel officer or union or staff association representative.

Social services are the department in your local council responsible for providing support for the elderly and people living with disabilities, as well as their families and carers. Carers may have a right to an assessment that looks at the help they need to manage their caring role.

If you are not able to get help from social services or are given direct payments (instead of services) to make your own care arrangements, you may be able to buy in care services yourself. To get the help you need, you can either use an agency or recruit the help yourself.

Remember that making alternative care arrangements so that you can work can create conflict and/or cause feelings of guilt. What you decide must be right for you as well as others. You have the right to choose, and
that means being able to choose to give up work as well as staying.

If you do decide to leave work, make sure you check all your options before you resign, for example can you take a career break, voluntary redundancy or early retirement?

Returning to work

If you have given up work (or not worked at all) because of your caring responsibilities you may want to work or return to work once your caring role ends, or you may decide you want to combine care with work.

If you are not sure what you would like to do, start by recognising the skills and interests you have. Think about what you have learned from:

Any paid work that you have done




Tasks and responsibilities involved in your role as a carer, a parent, and running a home




Any other activities that you do, for example, voluntary work, committees etc.




Then identify your interests, think about:

What you enjoy doing




How you would like to use your skills




Things you miss doing that you once did, e.g. previous work




Think about short and long-term goals and make a plan of what you would like to do. Make sure the plan is achievable – include the small steps as well as your long-term goals. Once you know what you want to do, you can look for the right kind of support to help you.

You may feel that you need to gain confidence to use your skills in new ways. There are training courses available on topics like confidence building, stress managing, assertiveness training.

Think about what employers want and value your own experience. Identify the transferable skills you have gained through caring and match these to employers’ needs.

Skills you may have developed include:

Managing a budget




Time management




Planning and problem solving




Prioritising, organising and negotiating




Communicating with professionals




Caring e.g. doing personal care and healthcare tasks




Listening and providing emotional support

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