Advice for firms on cancer diagnosis of employees

February 04 2021

We would like to mark World Cancer Day (February 4th) by sharing with you some of the advice Macmillan offers to HR and employers with employees who have received a cancer diagnosis.

Being diagnosed with cancer is an extremely difficult thing to come to terms with and different people deal with it in different ways. Many opt to continue working as much as possible throughout diagnosis and treatment and the support of an employer through this process is of tremendous help and reassurance. 

Cancer in the workplace

Work can provide a focus, a welcome distraction and even a therapy of sorts for many following a cancer diagnosis – with the need to keep things as normal as possible.

Employers have an important role to play in this and, indeed, have a legal requirement to consider making any reasonable adjustments to help employees, and with more than 700,000 people of working age living with a cancer diagnosis, it’s something companies need to think about.

Macmillan has some excellent advice for employers on supporting staff through cancer – helping them deal with the uncertainties of the type and stage of the cancer, the treatment and side effects which are to be expected, financial changes likely to be faced and the available practical support.

Company plan

Employers need a designated person as the qualified link with the cancer-diagnosed member of staff. This person may be:

  • A member of the firm’s HR or occupational health team
  • Their line manager
  • An outside professional from an occupational health company – a fully qualified person with experience who can liaise between employer and employee in a sympathetic and supportive manner

Employers will need to adopt a flexible approach with the employee possibly needing a temporary change to their job, reduced working hours and time off for tests, appointments and treatment. There may also be a need for time off work until the employee is fit to return.

An occupational health specialist will have first-hand knowledge of workplace issues and have an understanding of job requirements while being able to provide medical expertise and referral.

This may involve advising on symptoms, the possible impact of the worker’s ability, ongoing employment, job role adjustments and a return to work.

You can find more information on Macmillan’s guidance for employers here.


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