Opinion  

The business case for supporting employees with cancer

Mark Allan

Mark Allan

Every two minutes someone in the UK is diagnosed with cancer.  

One in two people will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime, which means there is a high chance that someone you work with will know someone who has been diagnosed with cancer, whether it's them or a loved one.

Being diagnosed with cancer can be extremely distressing and we know from speaking to businesses that they want to provide their people with support.

Offering employees access to high quality treatment is one of the ways that businesses look to support employees post-diagnosis.

Looking at our own claims history for employer-funded policies, we can see claims for cancers including breast, bowel, prostate, skin and urinary. However this is just part of the picture.

Over the last few years, cancer survival rates have been improving due in part to greater awareness of the disease leading to people detecting it and being diagnosed and treated much earlier.

We recently introduced a self-referral service - Cancer Direct Access - to reduce the time people have to wait to be diagnosed and start cancer treatment, where necessary.

We believe that this will result in even better outcomes for more people; a positive trend which means the chances of someone returning to work having been diagnosed with cancer is far greater than before.

Our claims data shows that two of the cancers that are most commonly claimed for through an employer-sponsored policy are skin and breast cancer.

Research shows that close to nine in 10 people survive malignant melanoma over 10 years. This is followed closely by breast cancer, with a survival rate of 78 per cent over the same time period.

For many, work can help them to maintain a semblance of normality following a cancer diagnosis. We partner with many businesses which use early occupational health advice to implement flexible working strategies that allow employees to remain in work but enables them to attend their appointments, treatment sessions or recuperate after treatment.

In a similar vein, businesses are also looking at how to accommodate an employee returning to work, potentially after a long period of absence, following treatment for cancer.

Fatigue is one of the most common side effects of cancer treatment, so while it may be different from person to person, small adjustments to the working day, such as encouraging short breaks or adjusting tasks, can make a real difference.

There isn't a one-size fits all approach for supporting a colleague back to work as much of it will depend on their individual needs.

However, it is also important for people leaders to consider their wider team who are likely to be concerned by the diagnosis of their colleague.