SMEs can play a crucial role in supporting employees with cancer, yet many still don’t offer support for mental and physical health and wellbeing, according to Towergate Health & Protection.
The employee benefits consultant said benefits can help to swiftly diagnose cancer, provide rapid treatment and look after the financial and emotional impact the disease can have on employees and their loved ones.
It added that there are low- or no-cost alternatives to offering benefits like private medical insurance (PMI).
For example, because poor diet and lack of exercise are known contributors to cancer, SMEs could offer nutrition talks and group physical team challenges to encourage their workforce to be healthier and more active.
SMEs could also offer standalone health screenings, which give employees the opportunity to identify cancer before it becomes more difficult to treat.
Brett Hill, distribution director for Towergate Health & Protection, said: “As employees are the backbone to UK SMEs, it makes financial and ethical sense to ensure their health and wellbeing is supported throughout.”
RedArc, meanwhile, has published a list of comments that employers should avoid saying to someone who has been diagnosed with cancer.
Published to coincide with World Cancer Day, the comments include: we may have to let you go as you are no longer able to carry out your duties; perhaps you should retire; you have had your treatment now and so should be fine; mandatory training was not up to date due to your sickness; and how long will you be off?
Christine Husbands, managing director for RedArc, said employer who don’t feel at ease having potentially difficult conversations could benefit from having access to specialists who can support the individual employee and signpost to coaching, training and support for the line manager and HR team.
Such support, can often be included within private medical insurance, group risk products or employee assistance programmes.
“There can be many obstacles both physically and mentally for the employee and also limitations within the workplace,” said Husbands. “Managed well, the workplace can be a safe haven for those with, and recovering from, cancer: somewhere where they have a purpose and where they can get away from their health matters.”
Cheryl Brennan, director of corporate consulting at Howden Employee Benefits & Wellbeing, added that employers should review what existing healthcare and protection benefits exist and if they offer good levels of cancer care, be flexible in their approach and provide solid support services.