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New research from the Discipline of Occupational Therapy, Trinity College Dublin, suggests that some women living with and beyond a breast cancer diagnosis in Ireland are not availing of important supports in the workplace to successfully return to work following cancer treatment. The main reason cited in the research is that they are not aware of their employment rights and entitlements and, consequently, are not seeking supports such as reasonable accommodations in the workplace to successfully transition back to work following cancer treatment. 

In addition, some of the women participating in the study identified experiences of indirect discrimination and discussed pressures and unfair expectations placed on them when they returned to work. This is often due to a lack of awareness on the part of the employer of the debilitating and enduring nature of the side-effects of cancer treatment. 

The paper, ‘Breast Cancer Survivorship and Employment in Ireland: Legislative Systems and the Return to Work of Women with Breast Cancer’, was recently published in the international journal, WORK: A Journal of Prevention, Assessment & Rehabilitation

Ms Naomi Algeo, Researcher at the School of Medicine, Trinity College, and Senior Occupational Therapist at St James’s Hospital, Dublin, said: “We interviewed women living with and beyond breast cancer, healthcare professionals, and employers across Ireland. We found that most women with breast cancer who participated in our research were unaware of their entitlements and rights in the context of a cancer diagnosis. Healthcare professionals are not advising of workplace legislation because they themselves are not aware of it in the first place. This is important, as many women may not be availing of, or being signposted by, healthcare professionals to important supports in the workplace.” 

Under Irish legislation, any employee with a cancer diagnosis has the right to reasonable accommodations to complete their job role and enjoy equal employment opportunities. This could be anything from a phased return to work after a cancer diagnosis, ergonomic changes to the workspace, or facilitating working from home, if feasible within the job description. Reasonable accommodations are typically put in place to manage side-effects, such as cancer-related fatigue, cognitive dysfunction, or reduced activity tolerance. 

You can read the paper at https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih. gov/35253666/.