6 mins. read

How to manage your employee being off sick with cancer

Managing an Employee Off Sick With Cancer | Perci Health

Key Takeaways

  • Gain as much information as possible: Knowing which support your employee can access, plus learning what they may go through and how this can affect not only their work but also other team members, can help maintain employee wellbeing and keep the team working as well as it can. A happier and healthier team is a more productive one after all.
  • Keep communication open: Keeping communication open with your employee who is off with cancer, as well as communicating updates with the team if your employee asks you to, will help to keep everyone in the loop without intruding on your employee’s privacy.
  • Take care of your own wellbeing: Supporting an employee with cancer, as well as their colleagues, can place extra pressure on you which can be emotionally and physically draining. It is important to acknowledge and evaluate your own wellbeing as part of the process.

Learning that your employee has cancer may not be something you expect to hear, however 1 in 2 of us will be diagnosed with cancer in our lifetime and almost half of people living with cancer are of working age. 

Proving that whilst it may feel unlikely, it is in fact a common occurrence. Which means being prepared is essential when it comes to managing and supporting an employee off sick with cancer effectively.

It can feel like a difficult situation to manage, yet with the right amount of information and support it can be navigated with minimal disruption and can be beneficial in maintaining relationships.

Here we share how you can effectively manage your employee off sick with cancer with the productivity and wellbeing of your team and employee in mind.

Knowing what to say to your employee with cancer

It can be difficult knowing what to say to an employee with cancer, you may feel torn between wanting to offer support and empathy yet might feel unsure of how to deal with the situation due to the sensitivity around the subject.

You might not even have time to discuss it fully in person, with some employees going from taking an afternoon or morning off for tests, to immediately taking time off following diagnosis.

Communication is key, especially when discussing financial support as this will be one of their big concerns as well as dealing with the disease. 

Avoid promising financial support without knowing the ins and outs. You may be keen to reassure your employee that everything will be fine for them financially to enable them to focus on their illness, yet it is best to find out which reasonable adjustments for employees with cancer can be made first.

Offering your employee practical support

Your company should already have a cancer wellbeing and support policy and/or package in place; it is worth getting to know this in full so that you can communicate what your employee with cancer is entitled to whilst they are off. 

The Equity Act was brought into English, Scottish and Welsh Employment Law in 2010 which protects people with cancer from unfair treatment. It states that as an employer, you must make reasonable adjustments to support their illness such as offering flexible working hours, changing the job where needed, working from home if and when their role allows plus to protect them from being made redundant or their employment being terminated.

Employees receiving a terminal diagnosis are also protected by law. Discussions on their prognosis and around whether they wish to continue to work should be left to your employee, however, legally they do not have to tell you their cancer is terminal and can continue to work.

Your HR department will know the financial support you can offer to your employee and whether or not your company may be able to offer additional support. This should be discussed with HR and / or higher management before communicating with or promising to your employee.

Communicating your employee’s cancer with the wider team

Supporting and managing a team member off sick with cancer does not only involve your employee – it can affect the whole team.

There may be team members who have a close friendship with their colleague, therefore it can feel difficult knowing how to communicate updates with them and especially in telling them their colleague and friend has cancer to begin with. You must wait for permission from your employee who has cancer before you tell the team, but they may prefer you to communicate their illness and updates rather than face questions themselves.

Whether you can tell the team about your employee’s cancer or not, it will be essential to discuss the implications of being a person down; reducing or splitting your employee with cancer’s workload will help to keep their work going whilst allowing adjustments to allow for the extra work as a whole.

Being honest and open can help to build trust and will help team members feel included, it can also lift spirits if there is good news with regards to your employees recovery.

A terminal prognosis can be particularly difficult to communicate and manage; offering compassion and support can help.  

Offering emotional support to your employee and to the team

There are many cancer charities and other organisations you can access for advice and support for yourself and to help support your team. You could set up a support group, offer counselling, speak to us to discuss the support we offer, plus encourage employees to look after their wellbeing outside of work.

Keeping your own well being in check

Managing an employee with cancer can be difficult emotionally, it can also place extra stress on you with supporting your team – plus dealing with additional duties and procedures – whilst being there to support your employee too.

It is important to look after yourself to be able to manage your team the best you can. 

Here at Perci we offer comprehensive cancer support for everyone affected by cancer. 

If you would like to discuss how we help those supporting someone with cancer., then we are here and ready to talk it through.