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Managing Cancer in the Workplace

World cancer day (February 4). A pair of hands holding awareness ribbons; blue, red, green, black, grey, white, pink and yellow color for supporting people living and illness.

Cancer is a significant cause of ill-health and death, both at home and in the workplace and many millions of people are diagnosed with cancer each year.

Work is extremely important to people living with cancer. A job can restore normality, routine, stability, social contact and income. These things are also important to carers. Around one in eight workers are carers, many of whom will be supporting a friend or relative with cancer.

Employers play a pivotal role in supporting people with cancer and their carers – a good relationship between an employer and an employee is more likely to lead to a successful return-to-work. This is particularly important because less than 40% of people are advised by health professionals about the impact cancer and its treatment may have on their ability to work.

As an employer or line manager, you may not always feel confident about how best to support an employee who is affected by cancer. There are challenges at the time of diagnosis, during treatment, at the time of return-to-work and afterwards. As it is also important to cater for the needs of other individuals in the workplace and your organisation as a whole, you may find it challenging both on a practical and personal level to meet the needs of all your employees.

Here are some suggestions that may help:

  • Disability insurance: Some employers offer disability insurance as part of their benefits package. This can provide employees with a portion of their salary while they are unable to work due to a medical condition like cancer.
  • Workplace accommodations: employers are required to provide reasonable accommodations to employees with disabilities, including cancer. This could include things like allowing an employee to work from home or modifying their work schedule.
  • Employee Assistance Programs: Many employers offer confidential programs that provide employees with access to counseling, financial assistance, and other support services.
  • Cancer support groups: There are many cancer support groups available for individuals with cancer and their families. These groups can provide emotional support and practical resources for those affected by cancer. You should consider investigating groups that are local to the employee.
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