World Cancer Day 2022: supporting employees with cancer | Denton

World Cancer Day, which took place on February 4, is a one-day initiative to raise awareness about cancer and its prevention, detection and treatment. It is also a reminder that many people currently living with cancer in the UK face daily challenges.

A recent survey by the Institute of Employment Studies and Working with Cancer predicts that of the 14 million people with cancer worldwide, about half are of working age. Many employees who have been diagnosed with cancer are able to return to work after treatment. However, previous research has found that 18% of people diagnosed with cancer face discrimination from their employers or co-workers upon returning to work, 14% quit their job or are fired, and 15% return to work. work before feeling ready. The reasons are of course complex. Many employers are not convinced that they know how to best support their employees with cancer or even that they know their legal obligations. This article aims to offer some advice.

The Equality Act 2010 protects people with disabilities from discrimination or harassment because of their disability. Cancer is automatically considered a disability under the law. This means that an employee with cancer will be protected without having to pass any further legal tests as to its impact on their life. Additionally, the Employment Appeal Tribunal has ruled that even “precancerous” conditions can be considered a disability. This protection applies to employees with cancer and those in remission. Therefore, once a person has had cancer, they continue to be protected under the Equality Act. Of course, at different points in their cancer journey, the disease will affect them more and require more support from employers than at other times.

People with cancer can experience a wide range of side effects, including fatigue, cognitive impairment, decreased mobility or vision, pain, swelling, and loss of sensation. In addition, the side effects of cancer and treatment can be mental as well as physical. The psychological impact of a cancer diagnosis can be profound and can lead to anxiety, depression and other mental health issues, as well as reduced confidence in the workplace. Indeed, a recent NHS England survey found that cancer patients are 1.5 times more likely to report a problem with anxiety and depression than the general population. Under the Equality Act 2010, employers have certain obligations towards disabled employees or jobseekers. Not only is it illegal for an employer to treat a job applicant or employee less favorably because of cancer, employers also have a duty to make reasonable adjustments when the employee is placed at a disadvantage. substantial due to his cancer or his side. effects. What is reasonable will depend on the particular circumstances of the employee and the employer, but may include consideration of: whether the adjustment will successfully eliminate or reduce the disadvantage; what will be the cost and impact on the business; if it is feasible; and if it can be adapted within the company.

The following are examples of adjustments that may be reasonable: allowing absences for treatment and/or rehabilitation; workload adjustments, perhaps on a temporary basis; provide additional support; modify the employee’s work schedules or allow for flexible working to better meet the employee’s needs; the elimination of certain tasks which are now difficult, for example weightlifting, or the adjustment of the level of travel commitments; modification equipment; and, if necessary, find an alternative role for the employee that better suits their new situation. In addition to making practical and substantial adjustments, employers must also use empathy, compassion and caring to ensure that the employee is comfortable expressing the changes that can support them and feels listened to.

An important step an employer can take is to educate themselves, managers and staff about cancer and its impact. By doing so, the employer will be better prepared to support employees and can direct the employee to internal and external sources of support. Given the unfortunate prevalence of cancer, it is incumbent on employers to be proactive in this process in order to be in the best position to meet their legal obligations and support their staff.

As we’ve said before, the side effects experienced by people with cancer can vary greatly, as can the level of emotional and financial support they have in their family situation. Therefore, it is always important to engage with each employee individually and work with them to determine the best fit adjustments to meet their particular needs. Making assumptions about what might be helpful support can be disruptive and damaging to the relationship, even if done with good intentions.

In addition to wanting to do the right thing, there are various other incentives for employers to comply with the law. First, there is a reputational risk to the company from any successful discrimination complaint publicity. Second, the financial consequences of a discrimination complaint are significant. Not only does a successful discrimination claim result in uncapped compensation and injury to feelings compensation, but the cost of defending the claim itself can be significant. Finally, processing and preparing a discrimination complaint can consume management time, which in itself can lead to financial losses for a business.

In order to avoid such eventualities, it is important that managers are equipped to support their direct reports at the time of diagnosis and beyond, and that HR can in turn support these managers. Indeed, this is important for any disability employees may have and the protections and support available to employees with cancer should also be available to those with other mental or physical disabilities. Employers should review the policies and practices they have in place to support employees with disabilities, with an emphasis on providing emotional and moral support as well as reasonable accommodations.

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