United Kingdom

Majority of employers have no policies in place to manage cancer diagnosis

July 2016


Nearly three-quarters of UK employers have no policies in place to manage cancer diagnosis among employees, research by Check4Cancer has revealed.

48 per cent of line managers were also found to be 'unprepared' for a cancer diagnosis within their team. The findings by the cancer detection services company in their Cancer in the workplace 2016 report which polled 500 HR professionals also found that 61 per cent of employers had no policies in place to help staff return to work following cancer treatment.

In addition:

  • 71 per cent of respondents failed to provide cancer awareness information or provide health screening as a health benefit
  • 44 per cent do not currently offer cancer screening service and have no plans to do so in the future, compared with 27 per cent of respondents who are planning to introduce cancer screening in their organisation.
  • When asked about the impact increasing levels of cancer cases would have on the business, 52 per cent said they expected it to have a medium or high impact on absenteeism, 43 per cent said it would impact private medical insurance premiums and 39 per cent believed it would affect other insurance premiums.

Mark Witte, Senior Consultant at Aon Employee Benefits said: "In pure financial terms, cancer represents one of the biggest health risks impacting UK employers. An adverse claims experience can massively effect the funding required to deliver future strategy but many employers are yet to fully assess and quantify the impact that this risk presents.

"Looking beyond the financial implications, we must not lose sight of the human impact of these cases for the employer and the staff charged with delivering the strategy. With Cancer Research UK's 2015 study suggesting that 1 in 2 people born after 1960 in the UK will be diagnosed with some form of cancer during their lifetime, when coupled with an aging workforce, this is clearly one issue that employers will regrettably have to face on an all too frequent basis."

A small proportion of those surveyed in the Check4Cancer study have already introduced - or plan to introduce - supportive services for those diagnosed with cancer including free counselling services (34 per cent), extended leave policies (25 per cent) and family support services (20 per cent).

Professor Gordon Wishart, chief medical officer at Check4Cancer warned that employers were relying on line managers' ability 'to think on their feet', treating cancer diagnosis 'as just another people management issue'.

He commented: "The improving survival rates - 50% of patients now survive 10 years after a cancer diagnosis - mean that cancer is more like a chronic illness, requiring long-term attention and treatment, alongside appropriate support from employers as part of their duty of care, and for cancer as a recognised disability. An ageing workforce means cases of cancer will become more prevalent and have longer-term impact on organisations."

Witte added: "In addition to understanding and addressing the high level financial implications of the condition, the most progressive cancer strategies will target all phases of the cycle of care, from education to screening to treatment and post diagnosis support. Our experiences suggest that employers are looking for support in quantifying these risks and then designing and accessing the most appropriate support services to deliver their campaign".



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