Lancashire Times
A Voice of the Free Press
Ian Garner
Business Writer
3:00 AM 7th May 2022

'The Cancer Conundrum In The Workplace'

Image: Pixabay
Image: Pixabay
Cancer Research UK advise that every two minutes someone in the UK is diagnosed with cancer. There are around 375,000 new cancer cases in the UK every year, that's around 1,000 every day. Macmillan estimate there are three million people living with cancer in the UK. They predict this number will rise to nearly 3.5 million by 2025, four million by 2030, and 5.3 million by 2040.

As an employer, it’s likely you will have people living with, and recovering from, cancer amongst your workforce. People with cancer need support from their employer but employers need help and support too.

Photo by National Cancer Institute on Unsplash
Photo by National Cancer Institute on Unsplash
Employers, almost without exception, want to do the right thing but are often at a loss to know what to do. Employers look to employees with cancer to communicate their needs, however employees are looking to the employer to take the lead. This leaves a gap in communication and support. This is the cancer conundrum.

For the person with the cancer diagnosis, once heard it is never forgotten. Whatever the prognosis they know their life will change forever. Once their treatment is over their main desire is to “get back to normal” although this is an unlikely hope.

Many people think cancer is like other illnesses, once treatment is completed, the disease is cured, and then you are ‘better’. Cancer is infinitely more complex. The end of treatment is the beginning of something else – a rebuilding process that needs to be helped and supported.

There can be unintended barriers for people with cancer re-joining the workforce. This is bad for individuals who feel work provides a sense of purpose and self-esteem, bad for business who lose talented staff and are left with expensive replacement costs, and bad for the economy through a loss in productivity and tax receipts.

Photo by Angiola Harry on Unsplash
Photo by Angiola Harry on Unsplash
There is research that suggests that the cost of replacing someone returning from cancer treatment is greater than helping them back into their role and has a beneficial impact on the workforce who see their colleagues being supported, giving tangible evidence of an employer who really cares.

The importance of work to business and the health of the economy is clear, work is also important to the psychological well-being and recovery of cancer patients.

Employees returning from cancer treatment feel that they want to go back to work because they want to do something other than cancer. They want their life back.

Employers need to respond to the growing numbers of people with cancer in the workplace and recognise their valuable contribution to the business. In a business environment where ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) is becoming more important, dealing fairly and kindly with employees who have experienced cancer is a very tangible way of delivering on that promise.

Maggie's centres are a network of drop-in centres across the United Kingdom, which aim to help anyone who has been affected by cancer, and their family and friends. The centres are there to help employers deal effectively with cancer in the workplace and has centres in 27 locations in the UK, including Leeds, Manchester, Newcastle, Oldham and the Wirral.

A positive return to work can have a significant role in recovery from cancer. Maggie’s offer free workshops to educate and up-skill employers on how best to support their employees with knowledge, empathy and understanding.

The Charity can offer their expertise to help you deliver the best possible support to customers and employees, covering subjects such as:

Supporting colleagues with cancer in the workplace
Cancer awareness training
Managing anxiety and stress management

If you're interested in attending a workshop at your nearest Maggie's centre, please get in touch with the local centre -

Ian Garner
Ian Garner
Ian Garner is a Board Member of Maggie’s Yorkshire. Maggie’s provides emotional and practical cancer support and information in centres across the UK and online, with their centre in Leeds based at St James’s Hospital.

Ian is a retired Fellow of the Chartered Management Institute (FCMI) and a Fellow of the Institute of Directors (FIoD). He is Vice Chair of the Institute of Directors, North Yorkshire Branch.

He is founder and director at Practical Solutions Management, a strategic consultancy practice and skilled in developing strategy and providing strategic direction, specialising in business growth and leadership.