Employers fail to manage cancer in the workplace, survey shows

Employers are failing to plan for how to support and manage employees with cancer, both those going through treatment and “survivors” returning to work post-treatment.

A survey of 500 HR professionals by screening company Check4Cancer has found 71% did not have any policies in place for communication with, or management of, employees with a cancer diagnosis, while 48% conceded line managers in their organisations were by and large unprepared when it came to managing staff with cancer.

With cancer survivors, 61% admitted they did not have any policies in place for communicating with and managing employees. A total of 71% said their organisation did not provide any information on cancer awareness or early detection of cancer through screening as a health benefit.

Professor Gordon Wishart, chief medical officer of Check4Cancer, said: “Employers appear to be relying on their managers’ ability to think on their feet, and to treat cancer diagnoses as just another people management issue. “Diagnosis of cancer is clearly a very serious health issue, but also one that has long-term implications for the individual and their team members, colleagues and friends in the workplace.”

Guidance on cancer in the workplace

The survey came as insurer and healthcare provider AXA PPP healthcare published a separate White Paper to help employers support employees caring for someone with cancer.

AXA PPP healthcare’s own research has concluded that nearly half (49%) of managers of employees with a family member diagnosed with cancer say their organisation does not have a formal policy for employees in this regard.

And nearly one-third (32%) of employees with a family member diagnosed with cancer reported they did not feel supported by their employer when the diagnosis was made.

Its recommendations for employers include the need to:

  • review and revise policies and procedures to include carers;
  • build awareness of cancer, the impact of living with the disease, and caring for those who have it;
  • consider introducing flexible working arrangements for carers;
  • clearly communicate available workplace support – for example, confidential counselling, cancer nurse helplines and private healthcare cover; and
  • ensure workloads are fairly managed across affected teams.
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