Workers Living with Cancer Contribute £16 Billion to UK GDP


Many More Want to Work but Held Back Due to Lack of Support. Today, research reveals over half a million (560,000) people with cancer are currently in the workforce, contributing £16 billion each year to the economy. By 2030, with rising prevalence and survival rates, this number is set to rise to 1 million, with an economic contribution of £29 billion.

However the report, carried out by Oxford Economics in collaboration with Maggie’s cancer caring centres and insurer Unum, reveals for the first time that as many as 63,000 people living with cancer today want to work, but are encountering barriers that prevent them from doing so. This is because the right support isn’t in place for them or their employers. Research found the reasons for barriers are complex, as despite employers’ initial efforts to support people returning to work, relationships can quickly, and unintentionally, breakdown due to a lack of regular and meaningful communication and shared understanding from both sides.

The adverse effects of this on people with cancer can be significant – the research describes it as a ‘triple whammy’ effect: diagnosis, followed by job loss or negative experiences at work, leading to a total collapse in self esteem. Employers can also lose out as a result, through lost talent, decreased staff morale and a negative effect on their bottom line of managing absence and replacement costs. And consequently, the UK economy is losing out on £1.8 billion every year.

In the UK, someone is diagnosed with cancer every two minutes , but with earlier diagnosis, more advanced treatments and better targeted drugs, more people are living well with cancer for longer – with survival rates doubling in the last 40 years . Society and businesses need to keep pace with the medical advances in the treatment of those with cancer. If the right support was in place, by 2030 an additional 136,000 people with cancer who want to work could, and they could contribute an additional £3.5bn to the UK economy.

Maggie’s offer free emotional, practical and social support to people with cancer and their families and friends, and Unum works with businesses and employees on industry-leading rehabilitation for people with long-term illnesses.

Ann-Louise Ward, Programme Director at Maggie’s, said:

“Many people living with cancer aren’t able or don’t want to work after treatment, but for those who can and choose to, it can be vital to their psychological wellbeing. People with cancer who use our centres tell us work provides a focus outside of their illness, and can help build a sense of normality, security, structure and purpose. Crucially, it can have a hugely positive effect on their self esteem, empowering them to live well with cancer. For these reasons, their return to work must be managed carefully, with the right support provided to both those living with cancer and their employers.”

Today, Maggie’s, and income protection and workplace rehabilitation specialist, Unum, are launching a partnership to help understand and provide the support to address the barriers facing both employers and people living with cancer.

Ann-Louise Ward continued:

“It’s vital that employers provide the right support for an employee returning to work with cancer. This involves maintaining ongoing, meaningful communication and gaining and demonstrating better understanding. But employers also need support – they are looking to the person with cancer to set the tone and need more guidance from them on what they need, as everyone’s experiences are different. Better communication between both parties and a carefully managed return to work is needed, and the partnership between Unum and Maggie’s will help ensure the right support is provided.”

Joy Reymond, Head of Rehabilitation & Health Management Services at Unum, said:

“Employers want to do the right thing by their staff, but are often stumbling in the dark, without guidance. The role of the line manager too cannot be underestimated. The report shows they often have the biggest impact on someone’s experience of working with cancer because they are often the main contact the employee has with their employer. Our partnership with Maggie’s aims to give employers the support they need, including ways they can educate staff at all levels to approach this in the right way.

“With the right support and guidance these barriers can be overcome, and those living with cancer who choose to work can do so, avoiding the ‘triple whammy’ effect and benefitting society as a whole.”

The partnership between Maggie’s and Unum will begin with the first of a series of free education events and resources aimed at employers, taking place in the Maggie’s Centre in London. Each of the nine Maggie’s centres across the UK will also host events throughout 2013.

For more information on the events and resources, please visit