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Supporting Employees with Cancer

World Cancer Day takes place on 4th February, and gives us the opportunity to raise awareness for cancer and cancer treatment; it’s a day to encourage prevention, detection, and treatment.

According to Cancer Research, more than 375,000 people are diagnosed with cancer each year in the UK alone.

As HR professionals, we can play a vital role in supporting employees throughout their cancer journey. It is important to remember every patient has a different experience, but here we will talk through the greatest ways you can take care of your employees during such a difficult time.

In support of World Cancer Day, we want to take our own opportunity to raise awareness by demonstrating the role HR professionals play in supporting their employees with cancer.

Fostering a supportive culture

Supporting an employee who has recently been diagnosed with cancer or is undergoing cancer treatment requires compassion and sensitivity. As a HR professional, you want to ensure an environment of honesty, kindness, respect and, of open communication.

Managers should also be briefed on how to hold these types of discussions. Encompassing all these qualities will mean you have a workplace that provides psychological safety, meaning your employees feel they can speak up and share concerns, questions, or ideas freely without criticism or without being made to feel in the wrong for doing so.

Ensure that regular informal meetings are scheduled with the employee to discuss their wellbeing and any updates they may have throughout their cancer journey. Always check to make sure if there is anything you can do to further support them as their employer.

Encouraging open and honest communication is important, whilst also recognising the difficulty of the situation for the employee, it is imperative that confidentiality is maintained throughout.

Flexibility

It is important to offer flexibility throughout this time; whether this be for medical appointments or to undergo treatment or for periods of recovery. Exploring different ways of offering support such as allowing them to work from home or amend their working patterns to support them throughout this time.

You should also work with the employee to identify any reasonable adjustments that are needed to accommodate their workplace, such as ergonomic adjustments or modified duties. Allowing flexibility, will also allow you to facilitate a smoother transition back to work if the employee takes an extended period of absence.  

Educating your workforce

Provide resources and sources of information for your workforce about local cancer support groups as an extension to the support you offer within the workplace. Raise awareness for cancer charities within your workplace, whether this be information hubs or charity fundraisers that employees can take part in, examples include Macmillan and Cancer Research.

By educating your workforce, they are able to support each other and take care of one another as best they can. Two websites that can help this are:

www.macmillan.org.uk/cancer-information-and-support

www.cancerresearchuk.org

Remember that ongoing support is crucial, and tailoring your approach to each employee’s unique situation will contribute significantly to their wellbeing.

By fostering a workplace culture that prioritises empathy and flexibility, you’re creating an environment where employees feel valued and supported during one of the most challenging times in their lives