HR professionals have backed regular workplace cancer screening following new figures by cancer charity Macmillan which show that more people are surviving cancer than ever before.
The Macmillan figures also revealed that by 2020, around half of the UK population would have a personal experience of cancer at some point in their lives.
The HR research which polled over 100 HR directors and managers across the UK, found that an incredible 95 per cent agreed that employers should provide free, annual cancer screening checks for all staff.
According to HR Review, the prevalence of cancer among the working population is on the increase as well as cancer survivors who are able to return to work.
Speaking about the figures, Charles Alberts, Senior Consultant at Aon Employee Benefits commented that whilst the incidence of cancer amongst those of working age is lower in national averages, it is still on the rise and the condition remains ‘a concern’ for both businesses and employees.
“To truly have an impact on your personal risk of preventable cancers, medium to long-term sustained, positive lifestyle changes are required,” he said. “Employers can support employees via a health & wellbeing programme, but the challenge remains how to get those most at risk to fully engage, especially as the reward is not immediate.”
The Macmillan survey also found that 63 per cent plan to introduce cancer awareness programmes and/or screening within their organisation, whilst many respondents incorrectly believed that the NHS carried out screening programmes for many different cancers.
In fact, the NHS only provide regular screening programmes for breast and cervical cancer. Screening for bowel cancer is only available for those over 60, but screening for prostrate, testicular, lung and skin cancer are not currently offered by the NHS.
When asked about the impact cancer was likely to have on their organisation, HR respondents said the greatest impacts would be on staff planning (63 per cent), absenteeism (59 per cent), medical insurance premiums (58 per cent) and client relationships and management (50 per cent). Lower productivity, morale, and a need for counselling and other long-term support services would also be affected.
Professor Gordon Wishart, cancer surgeon and Medical Director at Check4Cancer who produced the report said: “HR needs to be planning now for the future, thinking through in detail what the implications are, and in practical terms what kinds of support it can offer for its people, as part of its statutory duty of care, but also as an employer in tune with the real concerns and needs of its staff.”
Alberts added: “The impact of cancer on business is far-reaching as indicated by this research, not to mention the personal cost. Early-detection of cancer is hugely beneficial on both fronts – the earlier a cancer is diagnosed, the better the chances of a full recovery and survival. Treatment is often less complex (and costly), and employees can return to work quicker.”
According to Alberts, cancer screening in particular, is a ‘valuable, lower-cost, practical benefit’ which enables potential cancers to be spotted and treated earlier than they otherwise would.
“One of our clients was so encouraged by the first year of the programme that the initiative has now been expanded to include a wider range of screens.” He continued: “Most of us are subject to budgetary constraints - cancer screening does not necessarily have to be fully company-funded, and you can start small and expand in the future. It can also be included in a flexible benefits programme as a tax-efficient benefit.”