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4th February 2022
The survey of 1241 working age people living with cancer highlights the importance of work for most cancer patients but also exposes the challenges many face in returning to, and thriving at, work. The research was conducted by Stephen Bevan of the Institute for Employment Studies (IES) and Barbara Wilson of Working With Cancer in the UK – who both live with cancer.
Other headlines from the survey include:
Stephen Bevan, Head of HR Research Development at IES said, ‘Although cancer survival rates are increasing, which is good news, it is disappointing that so many people living with cancer face barriers to getting back to work after often distressing treatment. It is especially concerning that so few GPs and specialist cancer nurses are having conversations with patients about work.’
CEO of Working with Cancer Barbara Wilson commented, ‘We are worried that so many people living with cancer – and their employers – remain unaware that the Equality Act entitles cancer patients to workplace adjustments which can help them return to work and to adjust to a life with or after cancer. Our own work with people living with cancer shows that access to information about managing work and cancer, coaching support and flexible working can make an enormous difference to people’s lives.
With 1 in 2 people in the UK likely to receive a cancer diagnosis, and half of those of working age, it essential that employers and healthcare professionals give a higher priority to good employment outcomes for cancer patients. Sadly, fewer than two-thirds of employees with cancer have returned to work or are still working a year after getting a diagnosis, often adding to the mental health and financial woes of many.
Dr Liz O’Riordan, consultant breast surgeon and breast cancer patient, said, ‘Sadly, I am not surprised by the results of this survey. As a doctor I had no idea that the Equality Act applied to every patient I operated on. When I got breast cancer myself, my own line manager didn’t know. It was only when a desperate internet search led me to ‘Working with Cancer’ that I realised I had rights and could ask for a longer phased return to work.’
The report highlights several areas where both healthcare professionals and employers can do more to ensure that more people living with cancer can return to work successfully and sustainably. These include: