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The mention of the “C” word evokes terror in people the likes of which is rarely matched by any other medical condition as life changes not only for the person receiving the diagnosis but for their close family whose lives are also dramatically impacted. Having got over the shock of the diagnosis, the rollercoaster journey of dealing with the news and knowing what to do next at the same time as trying to sort out treatments will undoubtedly be difficult to deal with.

Given that over one third of people living with cancer are of working age, it is important that business are able to support their employees who could be suffering themselves or having to care with someone with cancer – over 50,000 employees in the UK have a second full time ‘job’ of caring for someone with cancer with over 100,000 working age people are being diagnosed with cancer in the UK each year.

According to Policy Exchange Research Note “The Cost of Cancer”, business losses due to cancer survivors being unable to return to paid were estimated at £5.3billion with a cancer diagnosis causing 27 days of direct absenteeism.

Sadly, despite these facts and figures, what is more disturbing is that according to specialist cancer care provider, Harley Street Concierge, 36% of employees consulted advised that they have no form of support from their employer in the face of a cancer diagnosis. To mark World Cancer Day, they have put together a helpful guide that takes both anyone being diagnosed (or helping somebody with a diagnosis).

The nature of cancer as an illness creates practical, familial and often financial pressures that impact the overall wellness of the individual. Two of the main stumbling blocks are employees feeling uncomfortable sharing the details of their situation, and subsequently feeling discriminated against; and on the other side employers can feel uncomfortable knowing what support to offer and provide.

A clear vision and open dialogue is crucial as is genuine empathy and sensitivity. The Harley Street Concierge team have put together a checklist to help you manage someone who gets cancer. It is important that employers think about how to handle it well, how to understand what the employee is going through, get to grip with legal obligations and ask the right questions about return to work.

When someone you manage gets cancer the guide navigates how you can help through this difficult time:

How to have the conversation with an employee:

  • Prepare yourself for the conversation
  • Respect confidentiality
  • Stay flexible and keep communication lines open

How to understand what the employee is going through:

  • Read up
  • There are more than 200 types of cancer, each treated in a different way

How to get to grips with legal obligations:

  • Familiarise yourself with what a reasonable adjustment looks like
  • Don’t assume a cancer patient wants to work less
  • Refer to company guidelines and policies

How to ask the right questions about a return to work:

  • Talk about returning to work
  • Don’t equate ‘recovery’ with ‘cured’
  • Managing survivorship and living with cancer.

This new guide is supported by an employer support line and educational events. Tim Warren, Commercial Director at specialist cancer care provider, Harley Street Concierge said; “Not only does it make practical business sense to look after your employee, but as an employer giving the right kind of support says a lot about the overall culture of your organisation. We provide expert advice and support for employees and businesses at a fraction of the cost of private medical insurance. We ensure that your valued employees get the support that they need, when they need it most.”

For more information and copies of the actual guide please contact Helen Trevorrow or Vicky Hague at Green Row on 0794 000 9138 or email helen@greenrow.co.uk

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