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Workers with cancer in the dark about employer support

Clear need for greater dialogue between businesses and staff about help that is available

More than a third (40%) of workers are unaware of the support their employer provides for cancer sufferers before they are diagnosed, a study suggests. A poll carried out for Unum shows that more than a quarter (28%) of workers with cancer said they did not receive any support or the support they did receive fell below their expectations.

A vast majority (84%) of the 300 UK workers surveyed for Unum agreed their loyalty towards employers could have been influenced by the amount of support they received.

Three out of four workers worried about the cost of cancer and how their families would cope with loss of income if they had to give up work. More than half (52%) of employees thought they may have been able to return to work sooner had they received better support from their employers.

Workers described their overall sentiment towards work as providing “a sense of normalcy” (32%), taking their mind off diagnosis (28%), and valuing the social connectedness that work provided (22%). Some wanted to return to work but were not physically able to (16%). Others were nervous to return to work (26%), felt that work was mundane (14%), or could not face work (12%).

Liz Walker (pictured), HR director at Unum, said: “Employees diagnosed with cancer can quickly find their world changed beyond recognition. During this highly stressful and often confusing time, work can provide an oasis of normality and routine. However, our research shows the experiences of those who choose to work through a cancer diagnosis can vary widely, and a supportive employer can make all the difference.

“Creating employee resource groups for cancer survivors for emotional support, introducing flexible hours and remote working options, or providing practical insurance cover and return-to-work support can go a long way in aiding employees in their recovery, while signalling that you care.”