- Education is essential: Raising awareness and dispelling myths about cervical cancer and cervical screenings, by providing accurate information, is the first crucial step in supporting employees.
- A supportive workplace culture matters: Employees should feel comfortable sharing their health concerns, requesting reasonable accommodations and seeking support.
- Practical support is crucial: Facilitating screenings, fundraising for cervical cancer charities, making reasonable adjustments and offering specialised benefits demonstrates a commitment to helping employees with cervical cancer from diagnosis, through treatment and beyond.
In the UK, there are around 3,200 new cervical cancer diagnoses each year and it is the 14th most common cancer for females and people with a cervix, accounting for 2% of all new cancer cases. For those employees navigating cervical cancer and employment, it can be difficult to deal with the physical, emotional and financial impact of cancer while trying to uphold workplace responsibilities. Having an employer that is proactive and understanding can make a significant difference. In this article, we discuss cervical cancer and employment by outlining ways in which employers can support employees with cervical cancer and advocate for employee health.
Raise awareness and dispel myths
Cancer awareness in the workplace and dispelling common myths are crucial. Organise educational workshops and run awareness campaigns to provide accurate information about what causes cervical cancer, its risk factors, signs and symptoms, and prevention information, including details about cervical screenings.
Correcting misconceptions can help employees make informed decisions about their health, as can sharing informative resources and encouraging open dialogue. Misconceptions, such as being too old or not needing to go due to sexual history, often discourage regular screenings, so debunking them is essential for early detection and prevention.
Promote and facilitate cervical screenings
99.8% of cervical cancer cases are preventable. Regular cervical screenings are crucial for early detection of human papillomavirus (HPV), which can cause abnormal cells and lead to cervical cancer. Remind employees about the importance of these tests through newsletters, emails or workplace posters.
Encourage your employees to schedule their screenings and make it easy for them to do so. According to research by Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust, 80% of women working full-time are unable to book a convenient appointment time. Around 15% have delayed a cervical screening as they felt they couldn’t take time from work and 20% have resorted to using annual leave so they could attend a screening. Therefore, providing information about local screening clinics and offering flexible work hours or paid time off for screenings, can help reduce barriers to employees accessing them.
Foster a supportive workplace culture
Creating a supportive culture relating to cancer in the workplace is essential. Ensure that employees diagnosed with cervical cancer feel comfortable sharing their concerns and seeking support. Encourage open communication and provide access to Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) and mental health resources. Educate coworkers about the challenges cancer patients may face, promoting empathy and understanding.
Take steps to reduce the stigma surrounding HPV and cervical cancer through education. For example, some people have the perception that only promiscuous people get HPV and, therefore, cervical cancer. However, employers can raise awareness that this is not the case, by sharing facts and statistics, including that around 80% of people will have some form of HPV in their lifetime, HPV can lay dormant in the body for many years and an individual can get cervical cancer without having had sexual intercourse.
Fundraise for cervical cancer charities
Supporting cervical cancer causes extends beyond awareness. Consider fundraising events or charity drives in the workplace to support organisations focused on cervical cancer research and support. Employers can even arrange charitable activities to coincide with important dates such as Cervical Cancer Prevention Week, which takes place annually in January, International HPV Awareness Day on the 4th of March and Cervical Screening Awareness Week in June. Fundraising can take many forms, including placing a collection box in the office, a charity quiz night, a workplace raffle, a bake sale, a sponsored walk or an evening gala. Encourage employees to participate and donate, fostering a sense of community and shared purpose.
Make reasonable adjustments
If an employee is diagnosed with cervical cancer, follow cancer and working guidelines for employers by making reasonable adjustments to accommodate their needs. Reasonable adjustments for employees with cancer might include flexible working hours, remote work options or adjustments to workload. Demonstrating flexibility and compassion can make a significant difference to employees.
Provide cancer-specific employee benefits
Consider offering specialised benefits for employees dealing with cervical cancer. This could include extended medical leave, financial assistance programmes or access to leading cancer professionals. These benefits can be a lifeline for employees with cervical cancer, providing a way for them to receive bespoke advice and get support from people who understand what they are going through. Such employee benefits can also alleviate stress, contribute to their emotional and physical wellbeing, and help them focus on their treatment and recovery.
Signpost to fertility and cervical cancer support
Cervical cancer and its treatment do impact fertility, which can cause significant emotional distress. Ensure employees are aware of available fertility preservation options, such as egg freezing, and direct them to support networks. Provide access to counselling services and resources that can help them come to terms with what their diagnosis means for their fertility, allow them to process their feelings, and support them in making decisions for their future. Comprehensively supporting employees with cervical cancer means continuing to do so after treatment. Therefore, support for employees with cervical cancer can also include the provision of fertility benefits, assistance with accessing adoption services and signposting to involuntary childlessness networks and resources.
Perci Health has a range of cancer specialists including those who understand the complexities of navigating cervical cancer and can provide tailored support and guidance. Individuals can find out more by creating an account.
If you’re an employer who wants to do more to support employees with cancer, Perci Health can help you achieve this. We offer an affordable, on-demand online service where those affected by cancer can connect with specialists who can offer tailored guidance that considers the psychological, physical, and practical impacts of cancer. Find out more about workplace support for employees with cancer.
‘Cervical cancer statistics’, cancerresearchuk.org, October 2023, https://www.cancerresearchuk.org/health-professional/cancer-statistics/statistics-by-cancer-type/cervical-cancer
‘Advocating for women’s health in the workplace’, jostrust.org, October 2023, https://www.jostrust.org.uk/about-us/news-and-blog/blog/women-in-the-workplace
‘HPV stigma must end says charity’, jostrust.org, October 2023, https://www.jostrust.org.uk/node/1075301