Charity organisation Macmillian Cancer Support has reported a 74% increase in the number of calls to its support line that specifically centre around work-related issues, such as discrimination and dismissal, after employees receive a cancer diagnosis. This is based on 1,711 calls made between June 2017 and May 2018, compared to 982 calls made between June 2016 and May 2017.
Liz Egan (pictured), Working Through Cancer programme lead at Macmillian Cancer Support, said: “The rise in calls we have experienced to our helpline is staggering, and shows just how vital it is that people with cancer have support and advice with their choices around work.”
Furthermore, research by the charity, which polled 1,507 employees diagnosed with cancer and 1,012 line managers, found that 20% of those who returned to work after an absence caused by cancer faced discriminatory treatment, such as demotion, while 9% found that their employer had a lack of understanding around their needs. A minority (4%) of respondents even reported they lost their jobs as a result of their diagnosis.
Although 87% of employee respondents stated that it was important to continue working after their diagnosis, 34% of line managers worried that the employee would not stay long in the job and 8% feared that someone could use their illness as an excuse not to pull their weight at work.
More than one in 10 (13%) line managers were concerned that an employee’s cancer diagnosis could cause awkwardness, and 12% were worried that it could cause resentment among colleagues. A small number (8%) of respondents who were diagnosed with cancer while employed felt that their colleagues did not understand their needs.
“We know how important it is to many people to work during cancer treatment, or return to employment afterwards, and this is entirely possible with the right support,” said Egan. “However, some managers may have misconceptions about employees with a cancer diagnosis.
“Employers must be aware of their legal obligations under the Equality Act and ensure that there are appropriate policies and processes in place to best support their staff.”