Cancer awareness highlighted in the workplace

Movember (or November, as it is otherwise known) has perhaps become the month most commonly associated with cancer awareness.

Men, and workplaces, around the world pledged their fundraising support and grew a moustache during the month.

At charity Prostate Cancer UK, the main beneficiary of the annual campaign, male employees were encouraged to grow facial hair, while female staff set up a group to organise various themed activities.

Sue Virgoe, associate director of HR at Prostate Cancer UK, said: “From an HR perspective, it is really important to support the individual, but also think about the impact on the wider team.

“The skills of managers and the relationships between managers and staff are absolutely critical. It is about thinking about supporting that wider team.”

Research published in October by insurer Unum and Maggie’s Cancer Caring Centres found that 19% of respondents with cancer said their employer could do more to understand their healthcare needs and circumstances. The same percentage were dissatisfied with the frequency of communication and lack of support from their employer following treatment.

Joy Reymond, head of vocational rehabilitation services at Unum, said: “Claims for cancer have more than doubled in the past decade, up to 18.5% of all claims in 2012. That is a really significant number.

“More people are surviving and going on to long-term benefits, but  more to the point, coming back to work. We find that the issue is not an unwillingness [from employers], but employers are unfamiliar with how to deal with people.”

It is important for employers to communicate with staff and implement some form of return-to-work planning, said Reymond. “Some of the conversations we have with employers are talking about how that conversation might go and what employees might be expecting from their employer,” she added.

“People want to come back to work, but the workplace might not be able to accommodate them. The employer may not know how to reintegrate them in a meaningful way. It’s really good for their recovery to have a structure, a routine and a sense of identity.”

Hewlett-Packard won the award for ‘Best health and wellbeing strategy’ at the Employee Benefits Awards 2013 for its innovative programme around cancer support.

The Employee Benefits Awards 2014 are now open for entries.