Employer’s Guide: What to Do If Your Employee is Diagnosed with Cancer?

July 1, 20196:02 pm3466 views

According to statistics, there are approximately 17 million new cases of cancer worldwide in 2018. The number is estimated to grow by 27.5 million new cases of cancer each year by 2040, with the most common diagnosed cancer types are lung, female breast, bowel, and prostate cancer. In Singapore alone, there are about 249 people per 100.000 diagnosed with cancer. It means there is a big possibility that now or in the future, you will hear your employees ask for medical leave due to a cancer diagnosis. 

Are you ready to support such a case? 

As an employer in an organisation, you need to support employees in any situation. You need to provide guidance, be a sincere listener, and if possible, give advice when needed. You should also be able to handle an unexpected situation such as sudden injury or illness happened to the workers. Needless to say, you should also support your employees who are diagnosed with cancer. How do employers support such case, then?

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The Macmillan Cancer Support informed that cancer can affect individuals emotionally, financially, and physically. Therefore, as an employer, you need to know the basic knowledge of cancer to help your employees better and provide the right support for them. While calling for help from a cancer support centre can be really helpful, you can also do the following procedure adapted from cancer.org.

1.      Review company policies, procedures, and benefits

Employers need to follow the rules and procedures so you need to identify what kind of benefits available to support your employees with serious illness (cancer) can have, including:

  • Medical and drug coverage, including any cancer-specific programs
  • Cancer/health navigator or advocacy programs
  • Leave, including treatment leave or medical leave
  • Employee assistance program
  • Workplace accommodations, including flexible scheduling
  • Well-being programs
  • Community-based resources such as cancer support centre or hospital-based resources  

2.      Support, encourage and listen

The second step is to provide encouragement and an ear to listen to. Diagnosed with cancer is shocking and commonly, it becomes a private problem for some individuals. Therefore, you need to show your interest and concern. You need to focus on the employee with cancer and give supportive comments like, “I’m sorry you are going through this, but I hope you know we are here to help you.”

3.      Help employees with the resources they need

You need to connect the employee with cancer to information about their benefits. If possible, explain the types of leave and accommodations available in your company. Most employees who are diagnosed with cancer will choose to continue working. However, they also have additional questions about navigating the workplace during their treatment. So, you can offer these benefits, including flexible work schedules, taking medical leave, health insurance coverage, and sharing the news with co-workers and supervisor.

4.      Help employees during their treatment

As mentioned earlier, treatment will take time and needs might change during that time. Commonly, the changes that might occur during treatment are schedule flexibility, types of leave, or work responsibility.

During treatment, appointment days and times might change as employees might feel sick or need shorter days. In this regard, you can communicate with employees to accommodate their changing needs. Due to illness or treatment, employees might need continuous leave or intermittent leave. Therefore, it might be better to set a different responsibility that employees with cancer can handle. You can offer them to arrange a meeting between a direct supervisor and disability manager.

5.      Help employees after their treatment

Oftentimes, the cancer treatment doesn’t end in their active therapy. There is a possibility that the patients still need time off for follow-up appointments and treatment. So, there should be continued flexibility until employees can fully back into their full-time work schedule. There should also be continuous cancer care to have regular treatments to help keep cancer from coming back or to treat a recurrence. Additionally, there should be an act to help employees handle the side effects by encouraging them to speak with their care team about ways to manage their side effects. The side effects might occur as a long-term or late physical effects of their treatments.

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