Employers should 'play a vital role' in supporting staff with cancer

With one in two people being diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime, an employee benefit provider has suggested that employers should “play a vital role” in supporting employees who suffer from the illness.

Unum, raised this point at an event they hosted (5/11/2019) which highlights how important it is for employers to provide the right support for employees “impacted by cancer throughout their journey from diagnosis through treatment to recovery and a possible return to work.”

Unum found that more than a quarter (28 per cent) of employees said they did not receive any support or the support they did receive fell below their expectations when they were at work following their diagnosis.

A vast majority of employees (84 per cent) said their loyalty could have been influenced by the amount of support they received, as well as 75 per cent worrying about the cost of cancer would have on their family if they had to leave their job.

Employees are forced to be prepared to deal with the lasting physical effects of cancer treatment after returning to work, including fatigue, and lack of confidence from being out of the workplace for a period of time.

The panel led by Liz Walker, HR director at Unum, highlighted how employers and managers can find it hard to speak to an employee about a cancer diagnosis as they have not been trained to provide the support needed.

Employers can also help by ensuring that the right support is put in place to help the employee throughout their treatment and a possible return to work. The panel agreed that one effective way of doing this is to ensure all guidelines and advice relating to cancer are available in one place, easily accessible to both employees and employers.

A guest speaker at the event was Bill Turnbull, Classic FM host who spoke about his ongoing battle with prostate cancer.

Mr Turnbull said:

It’s been two years since my diagnosis and my life has changed forever. While I’ve had my ups and downs, it’s been the support of those around me who have helped me, and this extends beyond my family and friends to include my employer and colleagues at work. I think being able to go back to work is a huge part of being able to feel normal again. It’s vital that employers understand how important the support they provide to their employees with cancer is in helping them cope and live with this disease.

Peter O’Donnell, CEO of Unum said:

As we live and work longer, the reality is that more and more of us will face a cancer diagnosis at some point in our working lives. Employers play an important role in supporting employees as they face the financial, emotional and professional obstacles a cancer diagnosis can bring.

In order to gather these results, Censuswide was commissioned to provide independent research for Unum in May 2019. In total 300 working adults who have been diagnosed with or received treatment for cancer within the past 5 years, and an equal split of males and females were surveyed.





Darius is the editor of HRreview. He has previously worked as a finance reporter for the Daily Express. He studied his journalism masters at Press Association Training and graduated from the University of York with a degree in History.