Minimise the Effects of a Cancer Diagnosis on Your Workforce

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March 2018 is both Prostate Cancer and Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month with leading charities aiming to raise funds to support research into new treatments and to provide even better support to both sufferers and their families.

It has recently been announced that prostate cancer has a higher incidence rate than breast cancer. It is one of the four most common cancers and the most common cancer in men. The most recent Cancer Research figures indicate that there are approximately 47,000 new cases of prostate cancer and just over 7,000 new cases of ovarian cancer in the UK each year.

Cancer takes over people’s lives and it’s becoming an all too familiar occurrence in recent years.  But, there are ways to detect the early signs of cancer which enables rapid and more effective treatment and increases the chances of recovery.

Receiving a cancer diagnosis turns an employee’s world upside down and this means time away from work to focus on recovery. But even though they are not in the office, your support for them can be invaluable at this time. Check in with them regularly to see how they are feeling, ask how their treatment is going and see if there is anything they may need from you. Your interest and consideration will mean a lot to them, make them feel more valued and may aid their recovery knowing that they don’t have to worry about returning to work.

You will also see an impact on other colleagues. People who work together build up relationships and can often become close friends. Hearing of a colleague’s cancer diagnosis may affect the productivity of other employees too. They may also need you to support them – offer them someone to talk to if they are feeling overwhelmed, allow them time away from their desk if they need a break and provide some encouragement to remain motivated.

More than 112,000 working-age people, those aged between 16 and 64, are diagnosed with cancer every year and it’s hard for everyone involved. You may find it hard as a manager or team leader because of events in your own life or because you lack the confidence to deal with the situation emotionally.

With all cancers, early diagnosis is essential as it allows early intervention and significantly improves survival rates. This is why a regular cancer screening programme can be a big benefit to your company and its employees.

Treatment for many cancers has improved over recent years, but some remain difficult to tackle and it can have an effect on all of your employees as well as the individual affected by the illness.

If your employees have access, remind them about the company’s employee assistance programme, similar to the one provided by Health Shield, and the access they may have to nationwide counsellors.

Cancer has negative connotations, everyone automatically thinks the worse, but it is important that you remind your employees that survival rates are improving and, particularly if the cancer is caught at an early stage, there is a good chance that their colleague will return to work.

You as an employer also need to remember that it is not just an individual’s health that is affected, cancer sufferers will also find that it has an impact on their financial and mental wellbeing. Cancer treatment is daunting, can be aggressive and takes its toll on the body — allowing your employees sufficient time off is important and make sure that they know that nothing will affect their position at work.

When they are ready to make a gradual return to their job, ensure you work closely with them and remind them that there are no expectations. Allow them to work flexibly and show how you will make adjustments to ease the process, perhaps offering a phased return. In a similar way, work could be a respite for them — a sense of normality can be a good aid to recovery — and you and your employees can help them with that.

One additional support you can offer is that you can also raise awareness of cancer around the office, encourage fundraising and educate employees in how to deal with someone they know receiving a diagnosis and how to support family and friends.

Some Health Shield members may have access to our Cancer Screening benefit as part of their Health Cash Plan. Our Cancer Screening Service also provides home test kits that can detect the early stages of some of the most common cancers, including prostate and ovarian cancers, which reduces the length of time required for treatment and possibly the need for surgery. Alternatively, if you struggle to get a GP appointment you may also have access to Health Shield’s Virtual GP Service.  If covered, both services can be found via mywellness within our Members’ Area.


Cancer Research UK, 2018 (citation Cancer Research UK Incidence, 2015)