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Back to work after cancer

A long absence from work may require support, flexibility and rehabilitation. The best results come from cooperation between the employer, employee and occupational health service.

How to make going back to work succeed?

When you are on sick leave you should keep in touch with your workplace and discuss your situation with your superior. This makes it easier to return to work and anticipate what may be needed, such as flexibility in working hours or tasks.

When planning to return to work, it is a good idea to start with the occupational health service together with your employer and superior. Many work places have special plans and guidelines to help employees return to work.

Medical opinion concerning your working incapacity

During prolonged sick leave you should send the Social Insurance Institution of Finland (Kela) a written medical opinion concerning your working incapacity and the scope for remaining in work, when you have received 90 days sickness benefit over a two-year period. The medical opinion can be obtained from an occupational health physician. Kela requests written opinions from every sickness benefit recipient with the exception of people who are self-employed, students, the unemployed, people who manage their own finances or employees under foreign secondment.

Further information about prolonged working incapacity can be found on the Kela website.

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Can your work contract terminate because you have cancer?

Employees can resign from their jobs according to the terms of their employment contracts. However, employers cannot fire employees one the basis of illness, unless the employees’ working capacity has decreased substantially due to illness and on such a long-term basis that the employer cannot be reasonably be required to continue to employ the person concerned.

If it appears necessary to alter an employee’s job description fundamentally, the issue may involve rehabilitation and retraining. If this approach is not feasible, the employee can look for work comprising tasks that he/she can manage, or apply for a disability pension.



If you need rehabilitation to be able to return to work, you should get in touch with your doctor or with an occupational health physician. You need a doctor’s referral or rehabilitation plan to apply for rehabilitation services.

The Cancer Society of Finland provides rehabilitation services for cancer patients. Their aim is to help you cope with the changes to life caused by cancer and how to live as good a life as possible despite having the disease.

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