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1 in 5 people with cancer want more from their employer

New research reveals almost 1 in 5 people with cancer who were employed full-time at the time of diagnosis (19%) felt their employer could do more to understand their needs and circumstances.i The key is better communication with almost 1 in 5 saying they were dissatisfied with the frequency of communication from their employer following treatment.ii

The poll by YouGov, commissioned by Maggie’s Cancer Caring Centres and insurer Unum, found that many employers aren’t providing the right support for staff with cancer – during or after treatment. Often this is because employers are worried they may do or say the wrong thing and, as a result, don’t communicate effectively with employees about their needs and circumstances. iii

For many people with cancer, work can play an important role in recovery – by recreating a sense of normality and purpose, and providing a focus beyond cancer. Research found that over 1 in 4 people diagnosed with cancer whilst in full-time employment say work is important to their sense of identity (28%) and a quarter said it provides them with structure and routine.iv Over a quarter of respondents who currently have cancer and were employed at the diagnosis stage (26%) said they think less about their medical treatment when they are working.v

Andy Evans, Compensation & Benefits Manager for Xerox UK, has been supporting an employee with breast cancer since her diagnosis last November. He said:

“Work was really important to this employee as she felt it was therapeutic and gave her a structure and routine. As her line manager, my role was to make sure she felt supported and connected day-to-day and to give her the opportunity to work flexibly or remotely whenever she felt able to.”

Currently over half a million people in the workplace have cancer and a further 63,000 would like to return to work, but are being held back by a lack of support. vi

Joy Reymond, Head of Rehabilitation Services at Unum, said:

“Every person deals with cancer in a different way and employers often worry about saying or doing the wrong thing. Effective communication can help them to understand the needs of staff with cancer and put in place a tailored and flexible return to work plan to provide the right support and retain talented employees. That’s why Maggie’s and Unum are working together to raise the level of conversation around cancer in the workplace and encourage better communication between people with cancer and their employers.”

Lesley Howells, Research Lead and Centre Head at Maggie’s, said:

“Many people living with cancer aren’t able or don’t want to work after treatment, but for those who can and choose to, it can be vital to their psychological wellbeing. Crucially, it can have a hugely positive effect on their self esteem, empowering them to live well with cancer. That’s why we’re working with Unum to combine our experience of providing emotional and practical support with their expertise in workplace rehabilitation. Together, we want to ensure people with cancer and their employers have the support they need to have an open and honest dialogue.”

To get the conversation started, we’re inviting people with cancer, their colleagues, employers, friends and family and to share experiences and inspirations. Just tag tweets, YouTube videos and Instagram photos with the hashtag #workingbeyondcancer to share them on our campaign content wall. For more information, or to see what other people have shared, visit www.workingbeyondcancer.org

ii 19% of respondents who were employed full time at the time of their cancer diagnosis and continued to be employed during the treatment stage said they were dissatisfied with the frequency of communication from their HR manager/ officer/ department following treatment.

iii Oxford Economics, Can Work, Will Work: Valuing the contribution and understanding the needs of people living with cancer in the workforce, 2012.

iv 28% of respondents who have or have had cancer and were diagnosed whilst in full time employment say they have a sense of identity through their work, and 25% said it provides them with structure and routine to their day – this increases to 30% among those who currently have cancer.

v 26% of respondents who currently have cancer diagnosed with cancer and were diagnosed whilst in employment say they think less about their medical treatment when they are working.

vii Oxford Economics, Can Work, Will Work: Valuing the contribution and understanding the needs of people living with cancer in the workforce, 2012.

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