David Williams: Workplace support for cancer sufferers is key

This article is supplied by Friends Life.

Group risk providers are now offering much-needed support for the growing number of people surviving cancer in the UK and wanting to return to the workplace. 


This is because cancer survival rates are increasing all the time. According to charity Cancer Research UK, 50% of adult cancer patients diagnosed between 2010 and 2011 in England and Wales are predicted to survive 10 or more years, and Macmillan Cancer Support predicts that the number of people living with a cancer diagnosis in the UK is set to double from more than two million in 2010 to four million by 2030.

Many of those who survive will be looking to get back into the workplace, driven perhaps by financial necessity, the opportunity to resume a career path or simply to reconnect with old friends and colleagues. 

Returning to work following cancer can be difficult 

Returning to work following cancer can be difficult for both employees and employers. Employees will be looking for understanding and support of their circumstances as they adjust back into the workplace after a period of absence.

Similarly, employers and line managers may feel uncomfortable in managing a sensitive issue. They may have concerns over how they should engage and manage an employee before, during and after their return to work, to ensure a successful outcome for all concerned.

Group risk providers have recognised the trends in cancer survival and the importance of support in helping employees who have suffered a cancer-related condition and want to get back into the workplace. As well as providing group critical illness cover, which offers a lump sum benefit if an employee is diagnosed with a critical illness such as cancer, group risk providers are now offering return-to-work support services. Employer support has also been acknowledged as important to help organisations understand cancer and how they can help employees back into the workplace.

There are many forms of workplace cancer support

Support can come in many different ways. Toolkits can provide information and support to help an employer. This could include useful guides and frequently asked questions that are designed to help an employer plan and prepare for a member of staff returning to work following cancer.

Support may also be provided in the form of access to specialist case managers, who will have expert knowledge in cancer and can offer information and advice to the employee and the employer. Case managers may also be able to provide access to additional support for an employee, including face-to-face counselling, physiotherapy and various other support tools to help build a successful return-to-work plan.

With improvements in cancer treatment helping to increase the survival rate, there will be many more cancer survivors returning to the workplace. The services offered by group risk insurers will provide valuable support to employees and employers to help manage an increasingly important health and work-related issue.

David Williams is director of group protection at Friends Life