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What support can my employer offer me when I have cancer?

What support can employers offer for cancer Perci Health

Key takeaways

  • Employers should be accommodating: Everyone’s experience of cancer is different, so employers should be open to implementing flexible working, workplace adjustments and bespoke support.
  • A holistic approach is key: Support should look at each employee as a whole person and consider physical, mental, emotional and financial needs.
  • Support should extend beyond treatment: Structured programs and EAPs will assist employees in transitioning back to their roles after treatment, ensuring a seamless reintegration into the workplace.

If you’ve recently been diagnosed with cancer, you might be wondering about the support you can expect from your employer. As you navigate treatment and recovery, it’s important to know what assistance is available to you to help balance your work and health. Employer support can also be invaluable for your emotional wellbeing and help you feel like you have a robust network you can turn to at any time.

In this article, we discuss the support employers can offer to employees living with cancer, including practical resources, guidance, mental health support and financial assistance.

Flexible work arrangements

Employers can offer flexible work arrangements to accommodate an employee diagnosed with cancer. This flexibility may include allowing employees to adjust their work hours, work remotely or switch to part-time roles temporarily. 

These accommodations help employees balance their work responsibilities with medical appointments, recovery, and potential side effects of treatment. If you think that changes to your role will help, speak to your line manager or HR department about the options available to you.

Paid leave policies

Paid leave policies are crucial for employees with cancer. Employers should have comprehensive policies that cover various types of leave, including sick leave, disability leave or compassionate leave. 

There are explicit cancer and working guidelines for employers available online that explain employees’ statutory entitlements, however, many employers offer above and beyond what they are legally obliged to. Enhanced policies ensure that employees can take time off work for treatment and recovery without worrying about financial strain. Additionally, some employers offer unpaid leave options with job security to provide flexibility.

Health insurance benefits

Employers may provide health insurance as part of their employee benefits package. These insurance plans can cover cancer-related private medical expenses, including doctor visits, hospital stays and treatments like chemotherapy or radiation therapy. Employers need to communicate the details of the coverage and providers clearly to employees, so they can make informed decisions when using these benefits.

Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs)

EAPs offer valuable support for employees dealing with the emotional and mental toll of a cancer diagnosis. EAPs provide confidential counselling services and may extend to financial planning and legal guidance. Employees and their families can access these services to cope with the psychological challenges that often accompany cancer.

Supportive work environment

A supportive work environment is built on open communication, respect for boundaries, understanding and empathy. Employers should foster a culture where employees feel safe to disclose their cancer diagnosis, if they choose to, without fear of discrimination. Colleagues and managers should offer support and flexibility, allowing employees to navigate work and treatment without undue stress.

Cancer-specific support groups and on-demand services

Employers can facilitate or connect employees with cancer-specific support groups or online communities. These groups provide a platform for employees to share their experiences, seek advice and receive emotional support from others who have faced or are facing similar circumstances. Participation in these groups can provide a sense of belonging and reduce feelings of isolation.

On-demand support from cancer specialists can also help employees with their unique challenges and provide invaluable assistance when they need it most. For example, a psychosexual therapist can help an employee understand cancer’s impact on marriage and give them the tools to work through any issues they are facing with their spouse. A mindfulness and meditation practitioner may provide an employee with strategies for coping with anxiety after cancer.

Return-to-work programmes

Returning to work after cancer treatment can be a significant transition. Employers can help by implementing structured return-to-work programmes. These may involve a phased approach to reintegrate employees gradually, modified job duties to accommodate physical limitations or additional training and support as needed.

As you prepare to go back to work or as soon as you are back at work, your employer should reach out to you to discuss how they can best support you. This isn’t a legal requirement but is considered best practice. Often taking place as an informal chat, it also offers an opportunity for your employee to inform you of any updates that took place while you were absent and ask you how much you would like other employees to know, if anything, about why you were away.

Educational resources

Employers can provide employees with access to educational resources related to cancer. This may include workshops, seminars or online materials covering topics like coping strategies, management of treatment side-effects and tips for working with cancer. Such resources can help empower employees with knowledge, enabling them to make choices about their health and wellbeing.

Financial assistance and benefits guidance

Financial assistance for employees with cancer is often vital as many will encounter a full or partial loss of income and incur additional expenses, such as hospital parking fees. Employers can guide employees through available financial assistance programmes, such as disability benefits, government schemes and charity grants. Offering information on and assistance with applications can help employees navigate the financial aspects of their cancer diagnosis. Employers may also provide access to financial planning resources to help employees manage their finances during this challenging time and/or offer additional benefits, such as supermarket vouchers.

Accommodations and accessibility

Ensuring workplace accessibility is essential for employees with cancer who may have physical limitations due to their condition or treatment side effects. Employers should be proactive in making reasonable adjustments for employees with cancer, such as modifying workspaces, providing ergonomic equipment or arranging transportation options for employees who need them. These measures ensure that employees can continue to perform their job duties comfortably and safely.

Perci Health offers on-demand support to anyone who has been impacted by cancer. Our specialists provide bespoke guidance and advice to individuals from the point of diagnosis, through treatment and beyond. You can view information about our leading cancer experts, and book, manage and attend appointments with them by signing up for a Perci Health account today.