POSTED: November 17 2019
Employers can do more to support cancer in the workplace

Employers can do more to support cancer in the workplace

Employers play a vital role in supporting employees with cancer, says Unum as new research reveals a staggering 136,000 people now living with ‘chronic cancer’.

 Employee benefits provider, Unum, hosted an event recently to highlight how important it is for employers to provide the right support for employees impacted by cancer throughout their journey from diagnosis through treatment to recovery and possible return to work.

Guest speakers included former BBC presenter, and current Classic FM host, Bill Turnbull. Bill talked openly about his ongoing battle with prostate cancer, after being diagnosed in 2017, and how it has affected him both personally and professionally.

The event coincided with the release from a pioneering new study from Macmillan Cancer Support that at least 136,000 people in the UK are living with a ‘chronic’ form of cancer known as treatable but not curable* — cancer that can be managed but very rarely cured

It is an accepted fact that now one in two people in the UK will get cancer in their lifetime1. In the context of an ageing work force, 125,000 of working age adults are diagnosed with cancer annually2, meaning that cancer is becoming an issue which will impact most businesses whatever the size.

In 2018 cancer was the top cause of long-term sickness absence claims paid by Unum.

Upon returning to work, Unum’s research found that 28% of workers with cancer, or who have had cancer, said they didn’t receive any support, or the support they did receive fell below their expectations when they were at work following their diagnosis.

84% agreed their loyalty towards employers could have been influenced by the amount of support they received, and 3 out of 4 workers worried about the cost of cancer and how their families would cope with loss of income if they had to give up work.

The scale of the problem clarified by new figures from Macmillan Cancer Support and Unum’s own statistics outline the work still to be done by employers who would benefit from increased staff loyalty.




*Definition: Cancer that can very rarely be cured, but can be treated to help manage symptoms or slow the progression of the disease and extend people’s lives.[i]

[i] The statistic is based on people alive in 2015 who showed evidence of treatable but not curable cancer between 2012 and 2015 in England. The treatable but not curable cancer population only includes those who were not in their last year of life on the 31st December 2015.

You can read the Macmillan press release in full here.


Unum quoted statistics are based on:

1 Cancer Research UK, 1 in 2 people in the UK will get cancer, 2015

2 Macmillan Cancer Research, Macmillan: Work and Cancer, 2017