Medical Leaves

Have you taken extended time off due to an illness? In this episode of HBR’s advice podcast, Dear HBR:, cohosts Alison Beard and Dan McGinn answer your questions with the help of Anne Sugar, a cancer survivor and an executive coach. They talk through what to do when you’re recovering from an illness while working, giving notice after a leave of absence, or job hunting after a health-related employment gap.

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Listen to more episodes and find out how to subscribe on the Dear HBR: page. Send in your questions about workplace dilemmas by emailing Dan and Alison at

From Alison and Dan’s reading list for this episode: Job Hunting After a Medical Absence: A Delicate Balance by John Rossheim — “But be aware that prospective employers may weigh the bottom-line consequences of hiring someone who’s had a serious illness. It may be unethical or even illegal, but some employers, especially smaller ones, could consider how adding you to their health insurance rolls might drive up the group premium.”

HBR: How to Welcome an Employee Back from Medical Leave by Anne Sugar — “When the employee comes back to the office, of course, there is often a sense of relief, both because your colleague has returned from a difficult time and because the extra work absorbed by coworkers can now be handed back. But leaders sometimes forget that there are many steps that must occur before employees can return to full capacity.”

HBR: The Right Way to Tell Your Out-of-Work Story by Priscilla Claman — “But there are also lessons here for what you choose to emphasize about yourself when applying for a job. In sales, it’s called overcoming objections, which means understanding what negative thoughts people might have about you and proactively rebutting them. Depending on your situation, you can describe your off-work time to your advantage.”

HBR: What to Do When Your Employee Is Diagnosed with Cancer by Anne Sugar — “We often think of work plans as a bureaucratic necessity. But when it comes to cancer diagnoses, developing specific plans and processes can be powerful forms of support. Given how emotional it is to receive a cancer diagnosis, many employees are understandingly too stressed to think about putting a process in place for achieving work deliverables.”

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