How HR can help employees cope with cancer

Phoebe Macwhinnie
How HR can help employees cope with cancer

With almost a million working-age people in the UK living with cancer, organisations need to ensure managers and other employees are equipped to provide the support they need


Around one in two people will get cancer during their lifetime, according to Macmillan Cancer Support, and many will be diagnosed during their working lives. In fact, the cancer charity estimates around 890,000 people of working age are currently living with cancer in the UK, and some 700,000 people are juggling work and caring for someone with it.

Employers play a vital role in helping those who are directly or indirectly affected by cancer. Yet, a Cancer@Work survey finds 50 per cent of those who have cancer are afraid to tell their employer. And research from cancer charity Maggie’s reveals that 40 per cent of people with cancer in the UK have used annual leave for their treatment appointments rather than tell their employer about their situation. 

There is clearly more that employers can do to help and those working in HR have an important role in facilitating this. For example, HR teams could organise managerial training which covers the physical and emotional effects of cancer diagnoses and treatments so that they can have better conversations with colleagues affected by cancer and offer the right kinds of support.

Cancer Support UK