We use cookies to enhance your browsing experience, enable donations and analyze our traffic. By clicking "Accept" or continuing, you consent to our use of cookies.  
Accept Decline

A caregiver’s guide to

Supporting Someone You Work With

If someone you work with has cancer and you want to support them, but aren’t sure how, we’ve got you covered whether you’re their coworker or boss.

When Your Coworker Has Cancer

It’s normal to feel unsure how to best support someone with cancer. This is especially true in the workplace where you see each other 40 hours a week, but aren’t necessarily best friends. It’s also normal to feel concerned about what your coworkers’ illness will mean for your personal workload.

What to Say

Let them know you care

Try saying “I’m sorry this is happening to you” or “I’m thinking of you” to sympathize with their experience and let them know you care. Don’t forget to keep telling them over time, not just when they first disclose their diagnosis.

Talk about normal things

After you’ve acknowledged what they’re going through, don’t forget to also talk about the things you’d normally talk about. Whether you complain about a meeting that could’ve been an email, or talk about what you’re each having for lunch, maintaining some level of normalcy is appreciated. People with cancer aren’t just their cancer.

Ask if you can reach out

If they’re taking leave from work while they deal with their cancer and you want to keep in touch, ask them if it’s okay for you to email, text, or call them.

Let them know you’ll keep it on the DL

It’s up to your coworker to decide who, how, and when they tell the other people you work with about their cancer. Reaffirming that you’ll keep anything they share with you confidential can be a relief.

How to Help

Keep it confidential

A cancer diagnosis, treatment, and the decisions around it are personal. Leave it up to the person with cancer to share the news with whoever they feel comfortable with.

Be understanding

Cancer and treatment take a serious toll on the body and mind. Your coworker may need to scale back their work, have planned timed off for treatment or side effects, or call out of work at the last minute to deal with physical symptoms or have a mental health day.

Offer to cover their work

Only do this if you are 100% willing to cover their work responsibilities on top of your normal ones. The last thing you want to do is overpromise. If you do want to help take things off their plate, figure out specifically what you’re able to help with and communicate it to the appropriate people on your team.

Donate time

Ask your HR department if you’re allowed to donate your accrued vacation or sick leave to your coworker dealing with cancer.

Ask them

If you want to help your coworker in other ways, ask what they need and/or any restrictions they may have.

When Your Employee Has Cancer

If your employee shares with you that they have cancer, there are certain things you need to keep in mind as you help them navigate work during this time.

How to Help

Create a plan

Work with your employee to create a plan for their work responsibilities while they’re going through cancer. What reasonable accommodations can be made? Will their job description change? How will performance be measured? Will they take scheduled time off? Who will cover for them when they’re out? Put this all in writing so everyone knows the agreement.

Be flexible

No matter how solid your plan is, life happens, especially when you’re dealing with cancer. Try to be flexible and understanding if your employee needs to work from home or take time off suddenly to deal with their diagnosis, treatment, or side effects.

Check in

Check in with your employee over time to make sure the plan you created is still working for them and your team. Living with cancer changes often, and could impact your employee’s ability to work.

Keep it confidential

A cancer diagnosis, treatment, and the decisions around it are personal. Leave it up to the person with cancer to share the news with whoever they feel comfortable with. If you need to share the news with other senior level staff, let your employee with cancer know first so they don’t feel overlooked.

Modified workspace

Talk to your employee about moving their desk or providing special equipment to make the workplace easier with cancer. This could include sitting closer to a bathroom or farther away from the kitchen, having a mini fridge at their desk for medicine, or limiting exerting extra energy.

Flexible schedule

Letting your employee with cancer have a more flexible schedule to complete their work can help them manage both cancer and their work responsibilities. This can include telecommuting, working part-time hours, or shifting which hours during the day they work.

Laws to Know About

Americans with Disabilities Act

You’ve probably heard of the ADA, but may not know that it applies to cancer. If you are a private employer with 15+ employees or a local or state government, the ADA applies to your workplace. The ADA requires you to provide “reasonable accommodations” for an employee with cancer if they are eligible for coverage.

Family Medical Leave Act

The FMLA allows employees to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave from work to deal with their own cancer or care for their parent, child, or spouse with cancer, without losing their job. FMLA applies to private employers with 50+ employees, government agencies, and schools.

State Fair Employment Laws

Many states have additional laws that provide job protections for employees with cancer. These often apply to employers with less than 15 employees.

Rehabilitation Act of 1973

This law prohibits discrimination against employees with cancer at federal government agencies and companies receiving federal funding.

Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996

HIPAA requires most employers to provide health insurance to their employees, prohibits discrimation based on health status, and protects private medical information.

Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008

GINA prohibits employers from using genetic information when making employment decisions.

Share this guide

Join the movement!

Join the movement!

Connect with us

*dba Fuck Cancer, 2022. All rights reserved.

US: EIN: US 98-0699811 CDN: CA 822165866RR0001

9854 National Blvd., #280
Los Angeles, CA, 90034