A recent study conducted by GRiD, the industry body for the group risk sector, indicates that only thirty percent of employers currently offer support for serious illnesses, such as cancer, to aid individuals in staying in or returning to work.

This statistic is particularly concerning given that serious health issues, including cancer, are a worry for over one in ten (12%) employees of all ages, with a notable increase to 19 percent among individuals aged over 55.

In the face of a cancer diagnosis, many employees express a strong desire to continue working if physically and mentally capable.

This inclination is not solely driven by financial considerations but also by the emotional well-being that the workplace environment provides.

It therefore becomes imperative for employers to extend the right support to their staff members grappling with serious illnesses.

It’s crucial to offer the necessary support

Katharine Moxham, spokesperson for GRiD, emphasised the significance of employers stepping up to ensure individuals diagnosed with cancer have the necessary support to remain in the workplace if they choose to do so. She stated, “When someone is diagnosed with cancer, it can feel like the rug has been pulled from beneath their feet. When the time is right, being in work and all the positives that entails, such as providing stability, satisfaction, stimulation, and a sense of self-worth, are hugely important for the individual.”

The study further shed light on what constitutes ‘good’ workplace support for cancer. According to GRiD’s claims data from 2016-2022, cancer is the leading reason cited by employers when claiming under group risk benefits, including employer-sponsored life assurance, income protection, and critical illness coverage. Comprehensive support may encompass access to oncologists, second medical opinion services, virtual General Practitioners (GPs), mental health assistance, support with physical appearance changes, guidance on consultations and navigating the National Health Service (NHS), and aid post-treatment and NHS support.

Effective communication

GRiD emphasises that employee benefits extend beyond supporting individuals; they also assist employers in managing life-changing illnesses within the workplace. This includes effective communication strategies with employees in such situations, the development of flexible pathways for those looking to stay in or return to work, and the provision of HR and legal helplines, as well as mediation support.

Katharine Moxham concluded, “Remaining in or returning to work is often a very positive experience when many other elements of an employee’s life are in flux. Employers need to go out of their way to ensure they are doing everything they can to facilitate this and help to close the Cancer Care Gap.” The study underscores the urgent need for a collective effort to bridge the gap in employer support for individuals facing serious illnesses, particularly cancer, within the workforce.





Amelia Brand is the Editor for HRreview, and host of the HR in Review podcast series. With a Master’s degree in Legal and Political Theory, her particular interests within HR include employment law, DE&I, and wellbeing within the workplace. Prior to working with HRreview, Amelia was Sub-Editor of a magazine, and Editor of the Environmental Justice Project at University College London, writing and overseeing articles into UCL’s weekly newsletter. Her previous academic work has focused on philosophy, politics and law, with a special focus on how artificial intelligence will feature in the future.