For those struggling with a chronic illness, cancer diagnosis or any other qualifying medical condition, it can be hard to balance everyday life—especially a job. Some people may choose to continue working because they can’t afford to take time off or they don’t want to lose their employer-provided health coverage. Many people, cancer patients especially, experience what’s known as job lock—not leaving a job because of the fear of losing health benefits. In fact, a recent study found that 1 in 3 cancer patients reported experiencing job lock.
Though it may seem impossible to take time away from work, there are federal laws that protect your rights as an employee and require employers to provide you with qualified work accommodations. These laws include:
- Americans with Disabilities Act: This federal law protects employees from losing their job, prohibits discrimination against those with a qualifying disability or illness and requires employers to provide employees with reasonable work accommodations—changes to a job, job function or work environment that will help an employees job performance.
- The Rehabilitation Act: Similar to the Americans with Disabilities Act, this law prohibits disability discrimination against workers in the federal sector—like U.S. Postal workers.
- Family and Medical Leave Act: This law protects the jobs of those with a qualified illness and offers qualified employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protect medical leave per year.
It’s always important to communicate your diagnosis to your employer so they can accommodate your needs. How much information you disclose to them is your decision, but you want to make sure they know what you’re going through so they can offer you the best possible support. Some of the work accommodations employers can provide to employees with a qualified illness include:
- Offering a flexible work schedule
- Allowing time off for appointments
- Giving the option to work remotely
- Making changes to job tasks
- Reassigning responsibilities to another employee temporarily to lighten your workload
- Making changes to the work environment to make it more comfortable
While some people’s illnesses may not affect their day-to-day routine, some struggle to keep their energy up. A job is a big part of our lives and taking time off might can be a big decision. If you decide to continue working during cancer treatment or any other illness, the visual guide below offers tips for juggling work responsibilities while still prioritizing your health.