Returning to Work

Thinking about returning to work after your cancer treatment? This may be a big positive step in your life. While you might look forward to re-establishing  your usual routine, it’s also understandable if you feel anxious or worried. The good news is, having a return-to-work plan can help you make the transition easier.
 
Here are some ideas for creating your plan:
  • Start by talking to your doctor about returning to work and how you feel mentally and physically.
  • Some people don’t need any changes to their job, while others need adjustments such as reduced hours, modified duties or the use of assistive technology. Employers have a duty to make reasonable accommodations, except where doing so would cause “undue hardship” (see this detailed explanation of undue hardship). Talk to your employer, the human resources staff, an occupational health nurse or your union representative about changes you may need. They might have ideas that you haven’t considered.
  • A vocational rehabilitation counsellor can help you determine if you’re ready to go back to work, identify accommodations that will help you do your job, and help you get training or seek new employment if needed. Your workplace may have an employee assistance program (EAP) that can connect you with a counsellor. You can also ask your insurance carrier or cancer treatment centre.
  • Start getting used to your workday routine: get out of bed early enough each day, try doing tasks similar to those at your job if possible, try commuting to work, resume weekly household chores, etc. (It may be more tiring than you remember.) Think about ways to simplify your routine.
  • Try to complete tasks on your personal to-do list before you return to work, so that you can better focus on your job. If you’re not sure how returning to work or reducing your work hours may affect disability or insurance benefits you’re receiving, find out.  
  • Be patient and honest with yourself. If you are struggling with your return to work, talk to your healthcare team and others in your support network. You may need more time to recover from your illness and treatment.
 

Labour Rights and You

As an employee in Canada you have rights when it comes to employment and serious illness. Read below to know some of these rights and get more information.
 

If you are a federally-regulated employee

  • The Canada Labour Code provides federally regulated employees with a number of absences from work (check whether you are a federally-regulated employee).
  • Your employer cannot dismiss, suspend, lay off, demote or discipline you if you are on leave or if you intend to take such a leave.
  • You are entitled to sick leave protection of up to 17 weeks if you have worked for the same employer for at least three consecutive months.
  • In your absence, pension, health and disability benefits, and seniority continue to accrue.
  • You must provide a medical certificate if the employer requests one, in writing, within 15 days of returning to work.
  • For more information about sick leaves and the Canada Labour Code, visit the federal Ministry of Labour website.

If you are not a federally-regulated employee

  • If you’re not among the categories of federally regulated employees, the employment standards that apply to you are defined by the Ministry of Labour in your province or territory.  To find your local provincial Employment Standards Act, please see the links at the end of this document. 

References and Resources

For Employment Standards Act information, please visit your local province’s website:

For more information and support:





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