Two-fifths of employees with cancer value reduced or flexible hours

Liz Walker

Approximately two-fifths (42%) of employees who have been diagnosed with cancer state that being offered reduced or flexible hours is one of the most valuable ways employers can help support them through treatment, according to research by Unum.

The survey of 300 UK employees who have been diagnosed with cancer in the last five years also found that 29% would value the opportunity to work from home in order to help them manage their diagnosis, while 27% believe that access to counselling or emotional support would be beneficial.

More than half (52%) would value insurance cover to help with the potential loss of income from an inability to work, or to provide a lump sum financial benefit to aid with the cost of cancer.

Four in 10 (40%) respondents were unfamiliar, prior to their diagnosis, with the relevant resources provided by their employer; in addition, 28% say that they did not receive any support from their employer once diagnosed, or that the support they did receive was below their expectations.

Half (52%) felt that they might have been able to return to work sooner had they received better support from their employer, while 84% believe that the level of support they received directly correlates to loyalty to the organisation.

A third (32%) of employees diagnosed with cancer admit that taking time off work for appointments has been one of the biggest challenges. A further 30% stated that cancer treatment caused them to feel tired at work, while 19% confess to feeling distracted. In addition, 74% face the extra worry about the cost of cancer, and how their families would cope with a loss of income if they had to give up work.

However, attending work can have a positive impact. For a third (32%), work has provided a sense of normalcy, while 28% stated that it has taken their mind off their diagnosis. A fifth (22%) value the social connectedness that work can bring.

On the other hand, 26% of respondents were nervous to return to work, with 14% feeling that it is mundane or 12% simply not being able to face it. Around 16% wanted to return to work, but were physically unable to.

Liz Walker (pictured), HR director at Unum, said: “Employees diagnosed with cancer can quickly find their world changed beyond recognition. During this highly stressful and often confusing time, work can provide an oasis of normality and routine.

“However, our research shows the experiences of those who choose to work through a cancer diagnosis can vary widely, and a supportive employer can make all the difference.

“Creating employee resource groups for cancer survivors for emotional support, introducing flexible hours and remote working options, or providing practical insurance cover and return-to-work support can go a long way in aiding employees in their recovery, while signaling that [employers] care.”