Working with Cancer, a group which was set up by four City-based women who had all been treated for cancer, has just published its first set of guidelines for employers on managing employeees who have cancer.
The guide, developed in conjunction with the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) and charity Cancerbackup, includes advice about maintaining employee engagement during treatment, a cancer policy template and legal aspects of critical illness.
Hilary Wright, an HR consultant and founder of the Working with Cancer group, said HR professionals could help remove the stigma that surrounds cancer.
“Cancer is still such an emotive subject in the workplace and it still frightens people. But it’s now a treatable condition, and HR managers can raise awareness of the issue and provide support,” she told Personnel Today.
Employees with cancer are protected under the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA), but employers still lack confidence when it comes to managing staff with the illness, Ben Willmott, CIPD employee relations adviser said.
He pointed to a recent CIPD study which found that 22% of employers were unaware that the DDA classified cancer as a disability. Nearly three-quarters of the employers questioned (73%) also admitted that they did not have a formal policy in place for managing employees affected by cancer.
“There’s still a certain amount of awkwardness from both employer and employee around critical illness and line managers tend to shy away from the issue,” he said.
Wright added: “It’s not only the employee who is receiving treatment for cancer who is affected by it. If cancer is not managed in a sensitive way, it can have a huge impact on staff morale and even retention.”