World Cancer Day: Supporting staff dealing with cancer

The shocking statistic that 1 in 2 of us will get cancer in our lifetime doesn’t get any easier to digest, no matter how many times you hear it. There are millions of people across the UK currently battling cancer, and millions more whose lives have been affected by it.

Kayleigh Frost, Head of Clinical Services at Health Assured, says: “World Cancer Day on Friday 4th February is a pivotal time for us all to recognise the impact cancer has on anyone affected. And all workplaces should strive to take part in this recognition process.

“Workplaces must take action to support employees suffering from cancer. This is more than just an awareness-raising exercise – a cancer diagnosis can really rip the ground from under someone’s feet.

“It affects every part of a person’s life, including work, leaving them worrying about having difficult conversations with family member, employers etc. wondering if people will judge them as well as if they will be able to manage to juggle their work and life with all their treatments and hospital appointments.

“With a little planning, a focus on employee wellbeing and backing from management, it’s easy to change the approach to cancer in the workplace.”

Here are Kayleigh’s top tips to help you support employees affected by cancer:

Help them find support
Some cancer charities offer short courses and guides to assist those whose lives have been impacted by cancer. For example, Help to Overcome Problems Effectively (HOPE) and other resources from Macmillan Cancer. You might not know what your employee is going through, but it doesn’t mean you can’t direct them to someone who does. Learn what is out there and share this information with your employees.

Be sensitive to their needs
Cancer treatment and recovery can be extremely distressing and painful. Try to be as sensitive as you can to your employee’s needs during this time. Make any reasonable adjustments where possible, for example, offering flexible working hours or enabling them to work from home. Signpost employees to any mental health and wellbeing support that’s available. They might forget the services they have access to during times of need.

Ensure a smooth return to work
The amount of time an employee will need off work for treatment will vary from person to person. But when they do decide it’s time to return to work, try to make this process as simple as possible. Welcome them back and ensure a smooth handover. Find out what they need to help make this as easy as possible. Some people will want to be treated as ‘normally’ as possible, others may need more support. As employees ease back into their role, it could be helpful to manage their workload to avoid overwhelming them while they adjust.

Catch up with employees in regular review meetings to discuss any problems they might be facing and check in on their wellbeing.