The Work & Cancer blog - advice for employers and HR professionals

  • Why are men less open about their health issues and how can employers better support male employees affected by cancer?

    One major issue that has been raised with us is recently is how to get men to be more open about health issues and cancer specifically so that HR professionals and line managers can provide them with the support that they need. 

    This problem is not specific to cancer or to the UK.  Research seems to indicate that there are two main reasons why men don’t ask for support, which would apply both to men with cancer and men…

    • 3 Sep 2013
  • What is ‘Chemo brain’ – and how can you support an employee who is affected by it?

    Chemo brain refers to the cognitive changes that people with cancer may experience before, during and after cancer treatment. These changes may include having trouble with mental tasks related to attention span, thinking, and short-term memory. Many people describe this as a mental fog. The condition is common in cancer patients and survivors, and sometimes it continues for quite a while after treatment.

    Chemo brain is…

    • 6 Dec 2017
  • How can I embed a workplace policy on managing people with cancer and other long term conditions in my organisation?

    This is a question to which there is no quick fix as it’s really about changing organisational attitudes and behaviour.  Support from the top makes a big difference, and too often it is the case that this only really happens when those people have been affected personally. I think there are three major areas where HR can contribute a great deal to effecting change:

     1.       Making the case to the top team, appealing to…

    • 30 Apr 2013
  • Working while caring for someone with cancer: the issues carers face and how employers can help

    How often have we in HR stated in our visions, missions, strategies and policies that ‘our people are our greatest asset’ and /or that we aim to be an ‘employer of choice’? But what does this mean in practice – when our employees have to cope with life’s misfortunes and emergencies?

    These days many employers spend time developing family friendly policies, flexible benefits, and health…

    • 4 Jun 2014
  • Managing the performance of people affected by cancer

    Here are a couple of case studies to get you thinking: can you spot what the employers should have done differently in the two case studies below?

    Case 1: 

    A friend of mine, relatively new in a senior role, was diagnosed with cancer. Keen to keep on working during her chemo and with no real knowledge of what chemo was like, she committed to going into work for a couple of days a week. This worked well for a couple of cycles…

    • 25 Nov 2016
  • Working Carers- The Lost Tribe?

    I remember it distinctly. It was just another rather mundane day at the office when I left a meeting to take an urgent phone call. One of our employees had recently become a dad but now – just a few weeks later – a routine blood test had revealed that his wife had acute myeloid leukaemia. She would need to spend many weeks in hospital in isolation and would be unable to care for their new baby. Shocked and floundering…

    • 1 Jun 2016
  • Is your long-term sickness policy fit for work and cancer?

    If you read my blog in March you’ll recall I wrote that, ‘returning to work is not a sprint, it’s more like a marathon and sometimes there need to be pauses along the way to draw breath. It’s not a seamless progression, but a long and winding road. The reason for this is because many cancer treatments have significant, long-term consequences. Some side effects do not become apparent until after treatment has finished…

    • 13 Sep 2016
  • Rights at work for employees with cancer: a guide to what you need to know

    The Equality Act 2010 protects employees with cancer from being treated unfairly at work. This piece of legislation applies in England, Scotland and Wales. In Northern Ireland those with cancer are protected by the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (DDA). If you have cancer, the law considers you to be disabled and this legal protection applies even if you no longer need treatment or you move to another employer. Employment…

    • 20 Mar 2018
  • Top tips on how to support a colleague during and after cancer treatment

    Cancer is having a huge impact within the workplace and this will continue and increase for the foreseeable future. Although long-term absence[1] (lasting over four weeks) only accounts for 5% of all absence episodes, it typically accounts for 30–40% of total working time lost. In 2013 it was estimated to cost the UK £4bn per annum. Cancer represents a significant cause of long-term absence for manual workers (29%) and…

    • 9 Mar 2017
  • The importance of good communication when supporting an employee with cancer

    Talking about cancer in the workplace isn’t always easy. It’s can be frightening, awkward to discuss, and very personal. Some people find it easy to talk about their cancer but others are more private. Factors like gender, age or cultural differences can also make a conversation more difficult. For example, some men may not want to talk about their testicular cancer to a female boss or HR colleague. Or some women may…

    • 1 Jun 2017
  • Returning to work after cancer: seven steps to success

    Going back to work, sometimes after many months with relatively little contact with your employer, can be a scary time. Some people’s diagnosis and/or physiology allows them to work during some – or even most – of their cancer treatment so returning to work is less of an issue. But for many, this simply isn’t the case.

    So it’s important to formally plan an employee’s return to work a few weeks…

    • 4 Sep 2017
  • How can managers support working carers who look after someone with cancer?

    Peter’s manager was trying to get hold of me urgently. I left a routine meeting to take the call. One of the longer term members of his team had recently become a dad (for the third time) but just a few weeks later (yesterday) he and his wife had learned that a routine blood test had revealed that his wife had leukaemia.  The manager asked if it would be ok to give him a period of compassionate leave. Of course it…

    • 3 Dec 2013
  • What is the hidden impact of cancer? And what support can employers offer?

    After the rollercoaster journey of receiving a cancer diagnosis and treatment, many cancer survivors and their employers believe that after a return to work plan has been agreed and a few reasonable adjustments have been made, life will be pretty much back to normal in a few weeks. 

    However, this can be a particularly difficult time for those recovering from cancer, often made worse by the feeling that support is no longer…

    • 10 Mar 2014
  • How can a manager support a team feeling under pressure while covering someone’s absence due to cancer?

    This month, the Work and Cancer team received the following question from an employer: 

    How can a manager support a team feeling under pressure while covering someone’s absence due to cancer?

    Usually this type of situation arises for one of three reasons.

    1. Sometimes, and most typically, team members will not have been told the real reasons for an individual’s absence and will resent being put under pressure because…
    • 13 Nov 2012
  • Making reasonable adjustments for your employees

    This month, we asked Barbara:

    What should an employer consider when making reasonable adjustments for an employee living with cancer?

    Following a cancer diagnosis, most people need time off work for treatment.  This could last for several weeks or months. Whilst most cancers have a typical ‘care pathway’, every person is unique in terms of their cancer journey, their treatment and when they feel ready to return to work…

    • 11 Jan 2013
  • Why there’s always more to learn as an HR professional

    I’ve always looked ahead in life and planned what I was going to do. The trouble is change overtakes you and you can’t afford to stand still…

    For example, when I was seven I decided that after school I was going to get married and have children. No more school!

    When I was 14, I decided I was going to go to university, work for a bit, get married and have children. No more school (especially physics…

    • 17 Sep 2014
  • Workplace Well-being: how it can include cancer

    When considering how cancer fits in to your organisation’s Well-being strategy, you may focus on prevention and early detection. Offering screening opportunities for staff and raising awareness of signs and symptoms of cancer are important activities to include. But what about your staff who have been diagnosed with cancer and have remained in or returned to work? How can ensure your Well-being strategy takes into consideration…

    • 8 Dec 2014
  • What should employers consider when appraising an employee affected by cancer, including carers?

    As you know individuals who have cancer are covered by the 2010 Equality Act (or the 1995 Disability Discrimination Act if living in Northern Ireland) from the point of diagnosis. As part of this, employers have a duty to make reasonable adjustments if existing working arrangements put the affected person at a substantial disadvantage compared with others. 

    Let’s be clear, returning to work after a period of cancer treatment…

    • 6 Mar 2015
  • Preparing line managers to talk with staff affected by cancer

    For many managers, probably the most difficult aspect of managing employees diagnosed with cancer is having that first conversation – of dealing with the news and offering support. It is a critical moment because how a line manager reacts to the news, at first and then afterwards, has been shown to have a significant impact on whether an employee successfully returns to work. Communication, communication, communication…

    • 5 Jun 2015
  • What does the Equality Act mean for Employers?

    Line managers, as the statistics show*, often don’t realise that the Equality Act 2010 (Disability Discrimination Act 1995, Northern Ireland) covers cancer or understand what is meant by ‘reasonable adjustments’. So, for example, after six to eight weeks of a phased return, they typically expect an ‘employee’ recovering from cancer treatment to be ‘back to normal’ and assume that making any adjustments at this stage…

    • 2 Sep 2015

    I’m sure you will have noticed how many stories there are in the press these days about cancer. Sometimes they are about celebrities and sometimes they are about ordinary people who are coping with, living beyond and dealing with varying cancer diagnoses.
    These are always inspiring stories of human resilience and emotional strength in the face of gruelling treatment and often terrible uncertainty about outcomes…

    • 30 Nov 2015
  • Managing someone coping with the long term side effects of cancer

    If you read my last blog you’ll recall that I wrote, ‘returning to work is not a sprint, it’s more like a marathon and sometimes there needs to be pauses along the way to draw breath. It’s not a seamless progression but a long and winding road’. In most cases this is a journey which can be managed but it is one which needs support, encouragement and reassurance from managers and colleagues.…

    • 7 Mar 2016