Cancer is having a major impact on many businesses across the UK and managers accept there are difficulties in dealing with it. Owain Thomas reviews the problems and solutions to supporting staff.
“Obviously medical insurers are highlighting this and although the NHS is very good for a lot of cancer treatment, with an increase in people suffering, cancer provision is going to start creaking even more.
“There are also other factors such as the age people might be diagnosed with cancer and if they are still going to be employed,” Hall added.
As a result, screening and prevention services are becoming increasingly popular among organisations who are hoping increased awareness among employees of the lifestyle risks they are running will help effect some personal changes.
Insurers too are adapting their services to reflect the issues at hand and becoming more flexible in the way they deal with cancer coverage.
Variations including those working alongside NHS provision are springing up, along with cancer drugs funds or what are effectively critical illness policies just for cancer.
“One employee had forgotten they had purchased this policy and was getting quite fretful about fact they were not going to be working,” Hall explained.
“But, when HR reminded them about it, this lump sum was used so they could forget about finding money for rent and concentrate on getting better.”
Despite the continued economic stagnation, Hall added that many companies are choosing to preserve cancer coverage whenever possible and to utilise these new developments where necessary.
“Employers can make best use of NHS in conjunction with private cover, but the more likely route that companies are taking is more expansive cancer cover,” she added.
“It is all well and good sitting down with the facts and figures in front of you making decisions about ‘we will pay up to this point but nothing beyond that’.
“But when you have an employee in front of you who has just been diagnosed with cancer it suddenly becomes a little bit of a different issue.”
Line manager support
However, one of the biggest moves an organisation can make is to provide greater support to line managers. Some insurers offer support directly to the individual to address any anxiety about coming back into the workplace after a long time, while others can contact the line manager, improving awareness and understanding of the situation and meaning adjustments can be made without the employee going through the stress of that conversation.
Creative use of employee assistance programmes to offer support to line managers and staff members can also take much of the strain off employer-employee relations.
While much of this can be taken as a warning by employers, there is some good news to be found: another study, also supported by Macmillan, revealed that exercise can help to reduce depression in cancer patients.
The results showed that women who were more active consistently experienced lower levels of depression and increased quality of life compared to those who were less active. So by simply promoting a healthy and active lifestyle, employers will already be doing their staff a big favour.
While it appears the threat of cancer affecting the workforce is likely to continue growing, by introducing a range of business-appropriate measures, benefits professionals can help insulate the company against the potential effects while also providing their staff with the means to support their own health concerns.
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