Charity warns more than a quarter of a million people with cancer could face ‘cliff edge’ of choosing between health or finances if employers force them to return to the workplace.
Three-quarters of a million people living with cancer in the UK are currently in work, with 310,000 saying they feel it’s unsafe for them to work outside of their home.
The cancer charity that raised the issue, Macmillan Cancer Support is issuing an urgent warning to UK governments about the potentially devastating repercussions if vulnerable people with cancer are forced to return to their workplaces before it’s safe.
The leading cancer charity issued the stark warning after the Government urged everyone in England to return to their workplaces from August, as shielding comes to an end across the UK(i)
Macmillan is warning that the new guidance could leave thousands in England facing a ‘cliff edge’ of having make the impossible decision of choosing between their health or their finances. It could also lead to confusion amongst employers and employees across the rest of the UK. Shocking new data from the charity shows that a monumental 310,000 people living with cancer (42% of the estimated 740,000 in work) say they feel it’s currently unsafe for them to work outside of their home(ii)
Findings also reveal that almost one in five people with cancer in work in the UK (18%) had not left the house other than for essential medical appointments during the first two stages of lockdown. The vast majority (63%) of those who have been both shielding and working — around 80,000 people — say they feel it is unsafe for them to work outside of their homes(iii)
Despite this, the new data reveals that around 44,000 of those with cancer who are working (6%) had already been asked to leave the safety of their homes and go back to their workplace, even before the latest official UK Government announcements(iv)
Since the start of lockdown, more than half of the calls to Macmillan’s Work Support Service helpline (54%) have been related to coronavirus, with calls answered by the service 12% higher than the equivalent period last year(v)
Similarly, the charity’s new research reveals that one in five of all people with cancer (20%) and a colossal one in three (36%) people with cancer in work said that Covid-19 had affected their finances. Around 110,000 people with cancer in the UK (4%) revealed that they had struggled to pay for basic essentials or bills, such as food or energy, during the coronavirus crisis Worse still, around 60,000 people living with cancer (2%) have been left with no income at all during the coronavirus crisis.
Lynda Thomas, Chief Executive of Macmillan Cancer Support, said: “Cancer must not become the ‘forgotten C’ in this pandemic. As the UK Government encourages people in England to return to work, stronger protections must be put in place for people who have been shielding or are clinically vulnerable. It is critical that we allow them to step back from the cliff edge of having to choose between protecting their health or staying in work and paying their bills.’
- Shielding is ending from 1 August in England, Scotland, Northern Ireland, and on 16 August in Wales
- % figures are sourced from a Macmillan Cancer Support/YouGov survey of 2,202 adults with a previous cancer diagnosis.
- Method as per ref i. ‘Shielding’ refers to those who said they did not leave the house at all, other than for essential medical appointments, during the first two stages of the lockdown (23rd March to 31st May). Overall, 4% of all people with cancer in the UK have been both shielding and working.
- The estimated 44,000 refers to those who have been working and said they had been asked to go back to a workplace outside of the home at the time they completed the survey. It includes both those who felt it would be safe to do and those who felt it would be unsafe to do so.
Internal Macmillan Cancer support data.
You can read the Macmillan Cancer Support press release in full here.