By Kirsty Jagielko
When an employee is diagnosed with cancer, it affects not only the individual but also a network of people across the organisation. In practical terms, there’s a host of people management challenges to address. So it’s vital that businesses understand the impact of cancer on the workplace and take the right approach to managing it. A recent report¹ by Check4Cancer outlined recommendations for a five-point workplace cancer strategy.
Here are just some ways that working in partnership with a healthcare plan provider can help you proactively address these 5 strategy points:
1. Ready-made processes
The key message is - don't wait for cancer cases to become a people or management issue before devising a policy. Having a healthcare plan in place is an essential component for many businesses who invest in an ‘anti-cancer’ strategy. Healthcare plan providers can work closely with clients to develop a true understanding of the company’s objectives, culture and needs to learn what’s important.
2. Help with early detection
A focus on awareness and early detection can help identify a significant number of cancer cases at an early stage. Some providers, are now taking action to address the issue of delayed referrals for cancer diagnostics.
One key provider has recently launched customer-focused pathways to introduce self-referral for breast cancer and skin cancer diagnostics. In line with current best practice, healthcare plan members who present symptoms, are offered fast access to local cancer specialists for diagnostics. This includes same-day results for those with an ‘all clear’ result for breast cancer.
When cancer is detected early, it nearly always results in better treatment outcomes, higher cure rates and improved survival. Enabling fast access to diagnostics is not only good news for employees, it also mitigates the employer’s risk of a large claim and a longer period of absence at a later date.
3. Build in flexibility
Employees living with cancer need to know they have the support of their employer. When an individual is diagnosed with cancer, they will have special requirements that need to be met and questions that need to be answered. Employees who are offered private healthcare plans through their employer, will have access to dedicated cancer nurses who can work with them and their cancer specialists to arrange the best treatment plan. This may involve treatment in the private sector, the NHS, specialist oncology care or domestic help at home.
4. Keep a focus on wellbeing
Health and well-being programmes are an important part of promoting a healthy lifestyle, which in turn may improve chances of preventing a cancer diagnosis or aiding recovery. There are now many online tools and resources available, which are designed to support employees at every stage of their health journey. Health and well-being portals can provide tips for healthy living, information on how to manage living with certain health conditions and offer access to websites for additional support. It’s important to encourage employees to make the most of their healthcare plan and access resources that support their well-being.
5. Be patient with employees returning to work
More people are living with and surviving cancer than ever before. Organisations should understand employee needs and agree to a tailored adjustment plan for the months ahead. One example may include physical adjustments to an employee’s working environment. Healthcare providers can help support this transition for members through on-going nurse and healthy living support.
The potential exists for employers to reduce cancer diagnoses by up to two thirds1 within their workforce by encouraging healthy living and early detection. Working in alliance with Check4Cancer, Cigna UK HealthCare Benefits is one particular provider with a focus on finding new ways to support organisations in this quest, whilst balancing the best interests of both employees and the employer.
¹Cancer in the workplace: what does it mean for HR, Check4Cancer, 2015.