October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, a crucial time to raise awareness about breast cancer and support those affected by it. Employers play a pivotal role in helping employees navigate the challenges that come with a breast cancer diagnosis as well as work providing a sense of normalcy; here we talk about steps that can be taken to ensure a supportive and inclusive workplace.
Breast Cancer UK reports that breast cancer is the most common cancer among women in the UK, with around 1 in 7 women being diagnosed in their lifetime. Moreover, approximately 400 men are diagnosed with breast cancer each year.
Breast cancer treatments often require medical appointments, surgeries, chemotherapy and or radiotherapy, leading to periods of absence and reduced productivity. A study published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine found that cancer survivors, including those with breast cancer, experience a substantial decrease in work productivity.
The diagnosis can take an emotional toll on employees. Macmillan estimates that 27% of people diagnosed with cancer feel unsupported by their employer, highlighting the need for a more compassionate workplace culture.
Best Practices for Employers
If a person has or has had cancer, they are protected by law from unfair treatment at work for the rest of their life. Macmillan advises employers to create a culture where employees feel comfortable discussing their diagnosis. Encourage open communication and assure employees that their job security and career prospects will not be jeopardized.
Implement flexible work arrangements, such as remote work, adjusted hours, or part-time schedules, to help employees manage medical appointments and treatments effectively.
If health insurance is provided as a workplace benefit, review and update insurance policies to provide comprehensive coverage for breast cancer treatment, including surgeries, chemotherapy, and follow-up care. Clearly communicate these benefits and support employees in understanding their coverage.
Conduct training sessions to educate managers and colleagues about breast cancer, its impact, and the importance of empathy. Macmillan provides information, training, and resources for employers. A free toolkit and training is available. More information can be found at: https://www.macmillan.org.uk/cancer-information-and-support/get-help/financial-and-work/employers
Collaborate with employees to determine necessary workplace accommodations, such as ergonomic adjustments, rest breaks, or modifications to job tasks, to ensure their comfort and productivity during treatment and recovery.
Reiterate the company’s commitment to job security, ensuring that employees do not fear losing their positions while undergoing treatment. Adhere to legal regulations- and offer extended leave if needed.
Stay in touch with employees during their medical leave and recovery. Regularly check in to offer support, show empathy, and discuss any necessary adjustments to their work situation.
Provide information about local and online support groups, as well as reputable resources like Macmillan. These networks offer valuable emotional support and guidance during the breast cancer journey.
In honour of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, employers have a unique opportunity to demonstrate their commitment to the well-being of their employees. By implementing these key strategies and messages, employers can create an environment where employees facing breast cancer can thrive personally and professionally. Together, we can make a meaningful impact in ensuring a supportive, nurturing workplace for all.