More than three-quarters of employers are happy to provide subsidised cancer screening for staff but the vast majority fail to do so, research finds.
The Helm Godfrey survey revealed that 78% of responding organisations would contemplate contributing towards the cost of screening employees for cancer but in the vast majority - more than 80% - it was not offered to staff.
This is despite most companies having had staff who have developed some form of the disease.
The consultant questioned more than 100 organisations, ranging in size from over 10,000 staff to less than 100, and found cancer had a significant impact in the workplace.
Half of respondents highlighted that it presented numerous challenges yet three-quarters of organisations had no formal policy for managing cancer.
One in ten (9%) of respondents said dealing with cancer in the workplace was ‘very challenging' and 41% described it as ‘quite challenging'.
The think tank Policy Exchange calculated that losses suffered by businesses in 2008 due to people who survived cancer being unable to return to paid work amounted to £5.3bn.
Although private medical insurance was available in more than half of companies surveyed, this was only for ‘some' employees.
A quarter (28%) of respondents said cancer screening, where available as an employee benefit, had not reduced private medical insurance costs.
Helm Godfrey director and head of employee benefits John Deacon, said the research had found a surprising level of unpreparedness for dealing with one of the UK's biggest killers.
"Introducing screening does carry a cost and this may put off some employers," he said.
"However, the costs of not doing so can arguably be greater and companies could save a lot of time and effort by helping identify cancer among staff early.
"This could aid treatment and might also mean employers are more likely to retain the skills and experience of staff.
"Furthermore, by offering subsidised screening, companies may be able to reduce corporate medical and life insurance premiums as well as potentially mitigate the impact of cancer in terms of staff absence or treatment costs," he added.