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Employers ‘must support workers throughout their cancer journey’

Employees with cancer face financial, emotional and professional obstacles

Employers must support employees impacted by cancer throughout their journey from diagnosis to recovery and a possible return to work, according to employee benefits provider Unum.

Research suggests one in two people in the UK will get cancer in their lifetime and that 125,000 working age adults are diagnosed with cancer annually. 

In 2018, cancer was the top cause of long-term sickness absence claims paid by Unum. 

Upon returning to work, Unum’s research found 28% of workers with cancer, or who have had cancer, 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.

Meanwhile, 84% agreed their loyalty towards employers could have been influenced by the amount of support they received.

Three quarters of workers said they worried about the cost of cancer and how their families would cope with loss of income if they had to give up work.

At an event hosted by Unum, a panel of corporate wellbeing and cancer care specialists discussed that the key issues affecting employees include dealing with the feeling of fear that comes after a cancer diagnosis, fear of losing their job and fear of not being able to support themselves.

Employees can also struggle 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.

Employers can help by ensuring that the right support is put in place to help the employee throughout their treatment and 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.    

Unum has introduced a Cancer Pathway on its critical illness product which provides consultation assistance to patients, help with managing symptoms, a medical concierge, and psychological and post-treatment support.

Peter O’Donnell, chief executive of Unum, said employers play an important role in supporting employees as they face the financial, emotional and professional obstacles a cancer diagnose can bring. 

“Unum’s enhanced critical Illness product and the unique Cancer Pathway provides quick and easy access for employers and employees to cancer support upon diagnosis, through treatment and recovery – whenever it is needed,” he added.