This document is not intended to replace any current HR policy. This is suggested tips, on how to support employees who may have been diagnosed with Cancer.

Over 100,000 people of working age are diagnosed with cancer in the UK each year and there are currently over 700,000 people of working age living with a cancer diagnosis. Many will continue to work after or even through their treatment. For people who have experienced ill health or disability, remaining in or returning to work can actually help to promote recovery and lead to better health outcomes.

Many people living with cancer say work is important to them. A job can restore normality, routine, stability, social contact and income. These things are also important to carers. Around one in eight workers in the UK are carers, many of whom will be supporting a friend or relative with cancer.

Be sensitive to your employee’s needs

Every person has a different cancer experience. Cancer treatments, and physical and emotional reactions to cancer, will vary from person to person. What may be best for one employee may not suit another. Make time to understand your employee’s individual needs.

Respect your employee’s right to privacy

If your employee wants others in the organisation to know that they have cancer, ask them how they’d prefer this to happen. Also ask them whether or not they’d like you to keep in touch if they are off work for a while. Decide together on the best way to do this.

Listen, understand and ask

Listen to your employee without judgment and try to understand their situation. It’s fine to ask questions when they are sharing information with you.

Check guidelines and policies

Check if your organisation has any guidelines and policies to provide support to your employee and to you. These may cover sickness absence, long-term conditions, time off work and occupational health policies.

Be prepared to make adjustments

Cancer is legally defined as a disability. So you may need to make reasonable adjustments, just as you would with any other disability. These are changes to the workplace or working arrangements that allow someone with a disability to work. Your HR department or occupational health service, if you have them, can offer advice.

Recognise the impact on your team

Be aware of the impact that an employee’s cancer diagnosis can have on the wider team, the rest of your colleagues and, of course, on you. If you feel you need more support, ask your own line manager, your HR department or call the Macmillan Support Line on 0808 808 00 00

Check financial entitlements

Find out whether your organisation has policies for giving financial support to those off work, including occupational sickness pay. You may also want to check if there are any further benefits that could help your employee.

Respect carers’ rights at work

Keep in mind that employees who are caring for a person affected by cancer may need your support too. Be aware that the information here also applies to carers.

Discuss a return to work plan

If your employee needs to take time off work, talk with them about a return to work plan. This will help to identify any further support that might be needed before, during and after cancer treatment. This may include a phased return to work or gradually handing over work. You could also consider flexible options for working hours to support your employee’s well-being.