Could employers do more to support employees diagnosed with cancer | World Cancer Day

Woman in hospital, breast cancer

World Cancer Day is on 4 February – an event which explores how everyone can do their part to reduce the global burden of cancer.

According to Macmillan, one in three (or 750,000) of the two million people currently living with cancer in the UK are of working age. This figure is set to rise to 1.7 million by 2030.

With cancer rates rising and Macmillan highlighting that most employees (85%) diagnosed with cancer say their work is important to them, it is likely that more employers and employees will be impacted by cancer in the coming years. So, what should companies do to support any employees diagnosed with cancer?

Punter Southall Health & Protection, the award winning healthcare and employee benefits specialist says that employers have a responsibility to support any employees diagnosed with cancer and ensure they are treated fairly and appropriately. But also asks, could they be doing more?

Cheryl Brennan, Director of Corporate Risk at Punter Southall Health & Protection says, “The starting point for employers supporting their employees with cancer is to check if the existing healthcare and protection benefits and support they offer for cancer care are sufficient.

“There is a greater recognition that the impact of cancer is wide reaching, affecting an individual’s health, their finances and family lives. In response, more employers are treating cancer in the workplace more holistically than before.”

Cheryl offers her tips on how employers can better support employees dealing with a cancer diagnosis:

Review healthcare and protection benefits

Do existing benefits offer employees adequate support to enable them to remain in the workplace throughout their treatment or return to work after a period? Or do the benefits need an overhaul?

It is important that companies have established strategies and policies for managing employees with cancer and check regularly they are fit for purpose and provide the best support possible.

Take a more flexible approach

Cancer affects all individuals differently, so employers should be flexible in their approach. They may, for example, offer employees private GP services to ensure cancer can be diagnosed quickly, giving them the best opportunity for early treatments, which may also enable them to remain in work.

Employers may choose to provide access to alternative treatments or change the critical illness policy to ensure it will not only pay out a lump sum but also offer a cancer triage service to provide counselling support and emotional care too.

Employers could also offer greater flexibility in terms of working hours and schedules.

Provide solid support services

Brennan says that on a practical level, it can make an enormous difference if line managers are trained and equipped to handle difficult and sensitive conversations with team members. They also should understand and be able to communicate the healthcare benefits their company offers so they can sign post employees to relevant support services and information about treatment and their working options.

Equally, there may need to be support services such as counselling available for employees who may be emotionally impacted by their colleague’s illness.

Cheryl concludes, “To truly support employees with cancer, employers will need to consider all these elements when reviewing their employee benefit strategies. With cancer rates continuing to rise, World Cancer Day is a timely reminder for companies to check if their policies and support are as good as they can be.”

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