Working after your treatment is over

Some people continue working during their treatment. Some are unable to work or go back to their previous type of work after treatment. Some people may be able to re-train and take on a different job. Others may be physically able to return to their old job but not feel emotionally up to going back straight away.

Some people who have had cancer want to take some time out from work after treatment and re-think what they would like to do with their life. Others are very keen to get back to work as soon as possible. For many, working may represent 'normality' and is a sign that they are over their cancer. Some people have no choice but to keep working through and after treatment.

If you had to leave your old job before or during treatment, you may find it hard to get another job now treatment is over. Many employers are supportive of employing someone who has had cancer. Sometimes, this is not the case.

Effects on employment

Looking for a new job after cancer: Your legal responsibilities about telling your future employer about your cancer

A person who has had cancer does not have to, legally, tell a possible employer that they have had cancer/finished cancer treatment unless they are asked directly.

It's more common for employers during an interview to ask general health questions, such as whether the person has been diagnosed with or treated for any medical conditions which would affect the person's ability to do a job. Questions about your ability to do a job are legally allowed to be asked. A person must answer these questions truthfully.

Challenges you may face if you do go back to work

If you return to your job, or start a new one, and people are aware that you have had cancer treatment, you may face some challenges. Co-workers are often great friends and provide strong support. However, some co-workers may not know how to react and be frightened of hurting your feelings, so they may avoid saying anything at all. They may act as though nothing has happened and believe you must be okay because you look well and seem to be able to do your job again. Others may ask you questions that you are not ready to answer. You may feel angry, hurt and frustrated by people's reactions. The more relaxed and open you are about your cancer and its treatment, the more likely it will be that your co-workers respond to you in a way that feels right for you. If you are having a lot of trouble settling back into your work life, it may help to talk with a counsellor. Some workplaces will have someone on site who you can talk to.

The Cancer Society has information on managing cancer in the workplace, benefits and entitlements, and insurance, legal and employment issues. View them on our website or telephone the Cancer Information Helpline 0800 CANCER (226 237) or your local Cancer Society to ask for them.

The information nurses on the Cancer Information Helpline 0800 CANCER (226 237) can talk to you about returning to work.

Useful employment websites

Work Bridge Mahiri 

Employers and Manufacturers Association (EMA) 

Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment 

Insurance, superannuation and loans

Many people who have had cancer say that after they finish treatment they feel they want to get their 'money matters' in order. This could mean talking with a superannuation fund, wanting to get life insurance or managing your income to provide for yourself or your family.

You may worry that because you have had cancer you may no longer be eligible for certain financial services (for example, getting a credit card, mortgage or personal loan). You often don't have to give your medical history to get any of these.

Getting new insurance (life, income cover or travel) may be more difficult because you have had cancer. You will need to provide your medical history for many insurance policies. A mortgage is often linked with some kind of insurance so you are likely to have to let them know that you have had cancer.

Many people do not know they can claim disability benefits from their superannuation or insurance. If your working life is cut short, you probably won't have enough superannuation. Extra disability benefits will help you.

Visit the New Zealand Federation of disability Information Centre's website for more information or phone (03) 214 5000 for general enquiries.

For legal matters contact the New Zealand Law Society or district Law Society, your local Community Law Centre or the Legal Services Agency.

New Zealand Law Society (National Office)
26 Waring Taylor Street 
PO Box 5041, Wellington 6145, New Zealand 

Community Law Centre: see your local telephone directory, phone, or contact or visit their website.

Legal Services Agency (Head Office) 
Address: 89-90 Lambton Quay, Wellington 
PO Box 5333, Wellington 
Phone: (04) 495 5910 
Fax: (04) 495 5912 

What if I can no longer work?

Not being able to work can be very stressful. You will most likely still need a regular income to pay for bills, the mortgage or rent, and other living expenses.

It's important you get the support and advice you need. Work and Income provides financial assistance and employment services throughout New Zealand. Visit their website