How Employers Can Support Employees with Cancer
World Cancer Day is celebrated on 4th February every year around the world. The purpose of this day is to help prevent deaths from Cancer, the purpose of the day is to be able to unite people and countries affected by Cancer and to raise awareness about Cancer, to strive to act to help improve knowledge and education about the illness and to help raise funds for Cancer initiatives.
2022 World Cancer Day has extra meaning in the UK, as it is also 20 years this year since Cancer Research UK was founded. Cancer Research UK has done amazing work over the 20 years and helped millions of people.
The theme for World Cancer Day 2022 is ‘Close the Care Gap’ this is around identifying and addressing barriers that exist for a lot of people, around the world, be able to access the care that they need if they are affected by Cancer.
How can employers help employees diagnosed with Cancer?
Macmillan Cancer Support estimates that more than 125,000 people of working age get diagnosed with cancer every year in the UK.
According to research done, 28% of employees who have been diagnosed with cancer said they did not receive support from their employers, or the support they were offered did not meet their expectations.
Employers must ensure they offer support and reassurance to employees who notify them of a diagnosis. You must ensure that employees feel they can confide in their manager or HR representative and they must ensure they support and listen to what the employee tells them.
Examples of supportive responses leaders can say to employees can include:
- Let me know what support we (the Company) can provide you with
- I am sorry to hear this
- If at any time you want to talk about anything, please know I am here for you
When having these difficult conversations with employees, it is vital that sensitivity and empathy is shown to the employee, always avoid talking about ‘someone else’ you know who has been through similar experiences as this may not be helpful and comforting to the employee at the time.
How much fighting cancer will affect an employee in the workplace will depend on:
- Type of Cancer
- Stage and size of Cancer
- Treatment required and recovery process
- Support available for employees while undergoing treatment
- Type of work employee does and work schedules
UK Law and Cancer
Under UK law, Cancer is classed as a disability, which means employers cannot treat employees less favourably because of a cancer diagnosis. Any employee who is treated less favourably over someone without a cancer diagnosis could bring a claim to the Employment Tribunal for discrimination.
Assisting employees on their return to the workplace
Employees GP’s play a crucial part in an employee’s return to work, or while undertaking treatment, being able to remain in the workplace. However, employers also have a duty of care to ensure that they have good HR policies and procedures in place which allow flexibility, to support employees in their return to work, or to remain in work, following or undertaking cancer treatment.
Examples of flexibility required:
- Allowing employees on their return, while still receiving treatment, or recovering from treatment, access to a disabled toilet, parking space or similar to reduce the physical walking to the workplace or around the workplace.
- Having flexible working practices in place and phased return to work options, to allow remote working or reduced hours for a period following their return to work
- Ensure managers are trained to deal with having sensitive or hard conversations with their employees and that employees are comfortable talking to them, if not ensure the employee knows someone they can go to for support and help if they need it, not everyone will feel comfortable talking to their direct manager. Macmillan Cancer Support offers help with training managers on dealing with Cancer.
- Allow employees time off to attend medical appointments required, employees will be required to attend frequent appointments with their consultants or GP.
- Making modifications to the employee’s job role/function to assist them, could include a temporary change of role if available
- Offer Occupational Health support if available and can be of assistance (Note the NHS and employees Consultant information would take priority over any OH)
Support for Carers
It might not be a direct employee who has been diagnosed with cancer, but a close family member of an employee, this employee could become a carer for their relative and will need support to be able to do this, as being a carer will affect the employees work life also.
Employees need to be aware of all options available to them including:
- Flexible working patterns and remote working option
- Leave of absence and time off work
- Support available to them via Employee Assist Programmes or Occupational Health