Going back to work – what does the latest COVID-19 guidance mean for people with pancreatic cancer

31 July 2020

Hello, I’m Nicci, one of the specialist nurses at Pancreatic Cancer UK.

Our recent blogs have covered what the easing of lockdown (see other blogs by our nurses) and pausing of shielding may mean for people with pancreatic cancer. Shielding will be paused from 31 July in Northern Ireland, 1 August in England and Scotland, and 16 August in Wales. As shielding is paused and as more workplaces open up, you may have questions and concerns about what this means for you. Today, I want to talk about returning to work, and how you can keep safe.

If you have pancreatic cancer, you have rights at work, and are protected from discrimination. Your employer must make reasonable adjustments to help make it possible for you to carry on working if you want to. These adjustments might include working flexible hours, changing your duties or allowing you to work from home. Macmillan Cancer Support have more information about this.

Alongside this, it’s important to remember that government guidance is still to stay home as much as you can and practice social distancing when you do go out, especially if you are in a higher-risk group or have been shielding. This means that if you can work from home, you should. Your employer should provide you with equipment and assistance for you to work from home. If you can’t work from home, you are able to go into work but certain procedures should be followed.

Speak to your employer about any plans for your workplace to open, and if it is possible for you to work from home. Your employer should support this, especially if you have been shielding or are in a high-risk group. If you have concerns about your safety, let your employer know.

What should my workplace be doing to keep everyone safe?

If you do need to go into work, your employer should have put measures in place to keep you safe. Some of these measures include:

  • carrying out a risk assessment and sharing it with all staff
  • following strict handwashing and more frequent cleaning
  • practicing social distancing – for example by keeping 2 metres apart and having one-way traffic through the workplace
  • avoiding sharing work stations, and having screens in place if it isn’t possible to be apart
  • having a fixed group of people you work with to minimise the number of people you have contact with.

There is more detailed guidelines for different types of workplaces on the GOV.UK website. A workplace following these guidelines is referred to as being ‘COVID-secure’.

If you or anyone in your household or support bubble has symptoms of coronavirus, or you have been contacted as part of the NHS Test and Trace, you should stay home and not go in to work. You can get an isolation note from the NHS website to give to your employer. Or, if you feel well enough and are able to, you can work from home.

What can I do if I have concerns about my safety at work?

If you do need to go into work and are concerned about your risk of getting coronavirus, you should raise these concerns with your employer first. There is guidance for employers on how to keep workers safe and what procedures they need to be following in the section above.

If you would like advice or to take further action, there are organisations that can help.

  • You can contact ACAS (Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service) through their website or by calling their helpline on 0300 123 1100.
  • If you are a member of a trade union you can contact them for advice.
  • You can contact the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) if you are in England, Scotland or Wales, and the HSENI (Health and Safety Executive Northern Ireland) if you are in Northern Ireland.
  • In Scotland, Scottish Hazards provide a free and confidential service for workers seeking workplace health and safety advice and support if you call 0800 0015 022
  • Healthy Working Lives also offer support to both employers and workers returning to work in Scotland, including a mentoring service for businesses to learn about requirements and what they need to do.
  • In Northern Ireland, the Labour Relations Agency (LRA) and Advice NI offer free, confidential advice on all employment rights issues.

Read the full government guidance on work and how to get further advice in EnglandScotlandWales and Northern Ireland.

Is there any financial information or support for me?

If you have been shielding you may have been on furlough from work, or you may have been getting Statutory Sick Pay. When shielding is paused and people are able to return to work, you will no longer be eligible for Statutory Sick Pay due to shielding.

However, if you have pancreatic cancer and the cancer or treatment means you are too sick to work, you should be entitled to Statutory Sick Pay. You are also entitled to Statutory Sick Pay if you are self-isolating because you or someone you live with has coronavirus symptoms and you don’t feel well enough to work from home.

There is more information and support available to help with any concerns you have about finances. You can find information about Statutory Sick Pay on GOV.UK if you live in England, Scotland or Wales. If you live in Northern Ireland, you can find this information on nidirect. We have details of organisations that can help with financial advice and support on our website, such as Macmillan Cancer Support.

Remember that we are here to support you through the next stage of coronavirus and you can contact us on our free Support Line with any questions or concerns you have.

Thanks for reading this blog, I hope you’ve found it useful. Stay safe.