Liz Egan: Supporting employees with cancer to live the best life possible

liz egan

An estimated one in three people living with cancer in the UK are of working age, and this figure is set to increase to more than one million people by 2030. With more people working for longer and retiring later, employers need to be aware of the growing numbers with cancer in the workplace, as well how to support employees.

When you think of cancer, you may not think of it as a long-term condition. However, 65% of cancer survivors say they’ve had to deal with long-term side effects during and after treatment. Fatigue, depression, nausea and loss of confidence are some common side effects, so adaptions such as flexible working and time off to go to appointments can make a big difference to someone.

As cancer is classed as a disability under the Equality Act or Disability Discrimination Act (DDA), employers are required to make reasonable adjustments if the location, working arrangements or a lack of extra support puts someone with cancer at a substantial disadvantage.

It is important to remember that each person may require different support. So, how can businesses equip HR professionals and line managers to provide the best individual support for staff they manage, while adhering to organisational policies?

Macmillan has developed the Macmillan at Work programme for employers, which offers workplace training, resources and guidance to help HR and line managers manage cancer in the workplace. To date, we have worked with a wide range of public and private sector employers such as Argos and Norwich City Council on the programme.

Ultimately, it’s important to recognise that life with cancer is still life, and to support people to live their best life possible. Evidence shows support can prevent people falling back out of work due to ill-health, and that remaining in employment can have a positive impact on people’s wellbeing, as well as, of course, protecting their income. It benefits organisations too, by retaining knowledgeable staff and fostering a positive work culture.

If you’re an employer, you’re likely to face managing employees affected by cancer in the workplace, and managers and colleagues might need supporting too.

Liz Egan is Working Through Cancer programme lead at Macmillan Cancer Support