Leading employee benefits provider, Unum, have highlighted how important it is for employers to provide the right support for employees impacted by cancer throughout their journey from diagnosis through treatment to recovery and possible return to work.

BBC presenter, and current Classic FM host, Bill Turnbull, who was diagnosed in 2017 with prostate cancer, talked about how it has affected him both personally and professionally at a recent event hosted by Unum.

It is an accepted fact that now one in two people in the UK will get cancer in their lifetime. In the context of an ageing work force, 125,000 of working age adults are diagnosed with cancer annually, meaning that cancer is becoming an issue which will impact most businesses whatever the size.

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

Upon returning to work, Unum’s research found that 28% of workers with cancer, or who have had cancer, said they didn’t receive any support, or the support they did receive fell below their expectations when they were at work following their diagnosis.

84% agreed their loyalty towards employers could have been influenced by the amount of support they received, and 3 out of 4 workers worried about the cost of cancer and how their families would cope with loss of income if they had to give up work.

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 is enhancing the cancer support it offers through its Critical Illness cover, including the introduction of Unum’s ‘Cancer Pathway’, which provides consultation assistance to patients, helps with managing symptoms, a medical concierge, and psychological and post-treatment support.

Vocational Rehabilitation Consultants (VRCs) are also available to work closely with employers to put together a plan to help recovering employees return to work when they’re ready to do so.

Bill Turnbull says: “It’s been two years since my diagnosis and my life has changed forever. While I’ve had my ups and downs, it’s been the support of those around me who have helped me, and this extends beyond my family and friends to include my employer and colleagues at work. I think being able to go back to work is a huge part of being able to feel normal again. It’s vital that employers understand how important the support they provide to their employees with cancer is in helping them cope and live with this disease”.

Peter O’Donnell, CEO of Unum says: “As we live and work longer, the reality is that more and more of us will face a cancer diagnosis at some point in our working lives. 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.”