7 November 2016
Leading charity warns of appalling pressures facing working people with cancer
An estimated 20,000 of those who are diagnosed with cancer each year in the UK will face discrimination in their workplace1, according to new research released by Macmillan Cancer Support and YouGov at the World Cancer Congress in Paris2.
The research, which explores the impact of cancer on working life, found that nearly a fifth of people (18%) who return to work after being diagnosed with cancer say they faced discrimination from their employer or colleagues. In addition, more than a third (35%) report other negative experiences, such as feeling guilty for having to take time off for medical appointments and a loss of confidence in their ability to do their job3.
Worryingly, 1 in 7 (15%) say they returned to work ‘before they felt ready4.’ And 14% of people give up work altogether or are made redundant as a result of their diagnosis5.
Macmillan Cancer Support warns that employers must offer better support to the growing number of people with cancer in the workplace. With improvements in survival rates for cancer and more people working for longer and retiring later, the number of people with cancer of working age is predicted to reach 1.7 million by 20306.
The charity found that the vast majority (85%) of people in work when they were diagnosed with cancer say that continuing work is important to them7. The most common reason for this is ‘to maintain a sense of normality’ (60%) and others include ‘I enjoy my job’ (45%) and ‘I needed the money’ (54%)8.
Macmillan is calling on employers to make sure that they have appropriate policies in place and that their HR and line managers have the skills to support staff affected by cancer. It is also vital that employers fulfil their legal obligations to make reasonable adjustments which could enable employees with cancer to stay in or return to work if they want to.
Terry Foster, 58, from Southport, was diagnosed with lymphoma in 2010. After treatment he was dismissed from his job as a refrigeration engineer and successfully sued the company for unfair dismissal and discrimination.
“Initially my line manager was supportive when I told him I had cancer – he said they’d continue to pay me and to take any time off I needed. But I’d only been back at work for a couple of weeks after treatment when he informed me they’d have to let me go. He made it clear he was sacking me because I had cancer, saying they didn’t want to hinder my recovery and that by sacking me it would reduce the stress on me.
“I went into a state of shock. When I told my wife she burst into tears, it was awful, we had a new born baby and it was the most horrible time for both of us. We really struggled financially during this period and the stress and worry of it all impacted on my recovery.”
Liz Egan, Working Through Cancer Programme Lead at Macmillan Cancer Support, who led last week’s discussion on work and cancer at the World Cancer Congress, says:
“People living with cancer should know that they have the full support of their employer to return to work, if they want and are able to do so. It’s appalling that, during an already difficult and often stressful time, so many employers are not offering the right support to people with cancer, leaving them with little choice but to leave.
“We know that, for many people living with cancer, work helps them to feel more in control and maintain a sense of normality. Returning to work after cancer can also be an integral part of their recovery, so it is crucial that employers show support and understanding to make this a reality.”
Macmillan is helping thousands of employers to support staff affected by cancer through their Macmillan At Work scheme. As well as offering a free toolkit, resources and advice, the charity gives specialist training sessions for line managers and HR professionals to help make supporting staff as easy and rewarding as possible.
Anyone affected by cancer can contact the Macmillan Support Line to discuss their worries, talk through their options, or just have a chat on 0808 808 00 00, or they can visit Macmillan’s Online Community. For more information visit www.macmillan.org.uk/work.
For further information, please contact:
Eleanor Wilkinson, Media & PR Officer, Macmillan Cancer Support
0207 091 2467 (out of hours 07801 307068)
Notes to Editors:
To read Macmillan’s response to the Government’s recent Work, Health and Disability Green Paper, visit http://bit.ly/2fyJt7i.
1 People living with cancer who were employed at the time of diagnosis and who had returned to work after their diagnosis were asked whether they had experienced any of the following upon returning to work:
- Employers not making reasonable changes to enable you to do your job (e.g. to cope with fatigue);
- Found it difficult or not been able to take time off work for medical appointments; Being threatened with or given a warning for sickness absence;
- Feeling unfairly treated by employers or colleagues (for example, being given unfair workloads);
- Your employer implying or suggesting that you would be better off not continuing to work;
- Been passed over for promotion in favour of someone with less experience or ability to do the job;
- Having an unfavourable appraisal or performance review linked to your cancer;
- Feeling bullied or harassed for a reason connected with your cancer;
- Had difficulty negotiating a return to work;
- Had your entitlement to sick pay disrupted by your employer;
- Been demoted to a lower-paid or less demanding job without your agreement;
- Felt pressured into reducing your working hours.
- Or other issue(s).
Of the 836 who returned to work, 18% had experienced one or more of the above. We used the following calculation to estimate the figure of around 20,000:
- Total number of people diagnosed with cancer each year in the UK = 356,700
- Average rate of employment at the point of diagnosis among those diagnosed with cancer in the past year = 379 = 132,000 of those diagnosed with cancer each year in the UK will be in employment at the time they are diagnosed
- This research shows 83% of those in employment at the time of diagnosis returned to work afterwards in some capacity, including those who change their employer, job role, or hours = 109,500 who could return to work
- We applied the figure of 18% who experienced one or more examples of discrimination to this number to produce an estimate of 19,700 people
This research does not give a full breakdown of people’s long-term employment outcomes.
2 All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 1009 people living with cancer who were employed at the time of diagnosis. Fieldwork was undertaken between 5/25/2016 - 6/12/2016. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted by region.
3 People living with cancer who were employed at the time of diagnosis were asked whether they had experienced any of the following upon returning to work:
- Guilt for having to take time off for appointments or feeling unwell;
- Feeling less confident in your ability to do your job;
- Added stress in the working environment;
- Felt pressured into returning to work before feeling ready to return;
- A lack of understanding of your needs from your employer;
- Difficulty coping with the job;
- A lack of understanding of your needs from your colleagues;
- A deterioration in your career prospects;
- A reduction in your salary;
- Feeling stigmatised;
- A deterioration in your working relationships;
- Felt pressured into reducing your working hours.
4 People living with cancer who were employed at the time of diagnosis, who returned to work, were asked if, when they returned to work, they felt ready to do so.
5 People living with cancer who were employed at the time of diagnosis were asked whether there were any changes to their working life as a result of their cancer diagnosis.
6 Oxford Economics (2012), Can Work, Will Work. Valuing the contribution and understanding the needs of people living with cancer in the workforce.
7 People living with cancer who were employed at the time of diagnosis were asked how important was it for them to continue work after being diagnosed with cancer. Responses included those who answered ‘Very important’ (68%) and ‘Fairly important’ (17%).
8 People living with cancer who were employed at the time of diagnosis, who felt it important to continue working after diagnosis, were asked to select from the following reasons:
- To give me a sense of normality
- To keep me positive/keep up morale/self-esteem
- I need the money
- I enjoy my job
- To give my life day-to-day routine
- To contribute to my health and wellbeing
- For the social side/ interacting with other people
- To support my family
- I didn’t want to let my employer down
- To get me out the house
- I was frightened I would lose my job
- I was worried about the impact on my future career prospects
- I was worried I wouldn't be able to get another job after having had cancer
- Other reason(s)
9 Macmillan Cancer Support/Truth online survey of 955 adults in England, Scotland and Wales who have a cancer diagnosis. Fieldwork was undertaken between 3 - 21 September 2015. Data has been weighted. Survey results show that 36.6% of the 131 people diagnosed with cancer in the past year were employed at the time of their most recent cancer diagnosis.
About Macmillan Cancer Support
When you have cancer, you don’t just worry about what will happen to your body, you worry about what will happen to your life. Whether it’s concerns about who you can talk to, planning for the extra costs or what to do about work, at Macmillan we understand how a cancer diagnosis can take over everything.
That’s why we’re here. We provide support that helps people take back control of their lives. But right now, we can’t reach everyone who needs us. We need your help to make sure that people affected by cancer get the support they need to face the toughest fight of their life. No one should face cancer alone, and with your support no one will.
To get involved, call 0300 1000 200 today. And please remember, we’re here for you too. If you’d like support, information or just to chat, call us free on 0808 808 00 00 (Monday to Friday, 9am–8pm) or visit macmillan.org.uk