When staff get cancer, they get fears and concerns too, warns specialist support provider

When a staff member gets sick, and the diagnosis turns out to be cancer, most employers are sympathetic towards the diagnosis, but it seems that the physical aspects of the disease are only one component.

HR Managers need to be prepared for the emotional and mental side effects of the disease.

In fact, employees living with cancer can have many different separate fears and concerns.  Research by RedArc, conducted on over 900 individual cancer patients, identified 62 individual concerns shared by most sufferers, showing just how complicated it can be for employers to manage staff with cancer.

Whilst treatment and prognosis obviously weigh heavily on employees’ minds, other issues add to the mental strain of the diagnosis itself, including:


  • Body image
  • Caring for pets
  • Employment rights
  • Fatigue
  • Finances
  • Funeral arrangements
  • Making a will
  • Loneliness
  • Looking after family
  • Recurrence of illness
  • Sexual function and intimacy
  • Side effects
  • Upsetting people


Christine Husbands, managing director for RedArc says:

“When a member of staff is diagnosed with cancer they will have a huge variety of concerns, and whilst NHS cancer care is generally excellent, patients worry about wasting doctors’ time in asking too many questions. If the individual doesn’t have family and friends to talk to, or feels uncomfortable discussing their concerns with those closest to them, mental health issues can arise. In fact, according to Macmillan research, as many as two thirds of people living with the disease can develop a mental health condition, which is clearly not conducive to recovery or being receptive to treatment.”


How can employers help?

Providing third-party nurse advisory services, via employee benefits such as EAPs, group risk and PMI products, is hugely valued by the employee as they are able to receive the emotional and practical support they need from an independent source. This can include getting a better understanding of their condition, treatment & management; sign-posting to self help groups, therapies and counselling; support in sourcing equipment and arranging domiciliary care.

Many of these services are already available as part of your EAP, and we recommend these services are communicated to employees effectively.

In RedArc’s experience, most cancer cases (two thirds) that are referred to their third-party nurse services do so via critical illness policies – this can be offered to employees as one of a suite of group risk products that can provide financial protection as well as emotional and practical support for employees.


Christine Husbands concluded:

“Most employers now recognise that during times of serious illness, providing financial support alone is not adequate and they need and want to go further. Employers that offer more holistic support services to employees are usually rewarded with staff loyalty and retention and therefore forward-thinking insurers are responding to this in the way they design and promote group insurance products.”


**Macmillan’s Warning Signs Report published in February 2017 based on data collected from 1,020 adults with a previous cancer diagnosis.

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