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Managing cancer in the workplace

There’s no question that the Covid-19 pandemic has turned our lives upside down and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. But with all the focus on the pandemic, it’s easy to lose sight of the existing health conditions and illnesses like cancer which continue to affect billions of people across the world.

That’s why this year, Cancer Survivors’ Day on Sunday 7th June is particularly important. Those living with cancer are having to navigate treatment and support in an extremely difficult climate while social distancing and shielding. It’s no surprise that charities like Macmillan say they’ve experienced an increase in calls during the pandemic.

For employers focusing all their resources on social distancing and infection control measures in the workplace, cancer awareness days can serve as a timely reminder. Providing support for those living with cancer is just as important as ever. Even in the middle of a global health crisis, cancer shouldn’t fall off the radar.

The impact of cancer

Cancer continues to have a massive impact on the workplace – there are now 2.5 million people living with cancer in the UK which is estimated to increase by 4 million by 2030. According to Cancer Research UK, 1 in 2 people will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime, while 38 per cent of cases are actually preventable. IHC’s own client data shows that cancer is one of the main causes of long-term absence and high-value claims.

In January, think tank Demos revealed in their Cancer Costs report that the total economic burden of cancer costs the UK £7.6bn a year in lost wages and benefits.

Clearly, all this has significant implications for employers from an economic and financial perspective as well as a human one – and that’s before Covid-19 has been added to the mix.

In fact, Cancer Research UK warned in April that urgent cancer referrals had fallen 72 per cent since the pandemic, while fewer people were seeing their GP about cancer-like symptoms. This could lead to an estimated 2,300 cancer cases going undiagnosed each week.

The role of employers

Employers can play a key role in mitigating some of this anxiety and help signpost employees to resources and treatment which are available through employee benefits packages. IHC recommend using a virtual GP and seek out services who are beginning to open up.

Paul Roberts said, “Its understandable why some employees are reluctant to approach medical institutions about current health concerns. It may be fear of cross-infection or to allow the clinicians to focus on tackling the crisis”

“Health and wellbeing benefits that employers offer their workforce are of particular value to employees right now, and it’s important that businesses encourage employees to make use of them and seek medical help, just as they would have done prior to the pandemic, should they have a concern.”

Private health insurers now have specific measures in place to ensure that those living with cancer and those with undiagnosed symptoms still get access to treatment, including urgent diagnostic testing, remote consultations with oncologists or in-home cancer treatments.

AXA PPP in particular, have launched a Clinical Support Centre, available until the end of the crisis, which gives members access to specialists including oncologists from the safety of their own home while those already awaiting private treatment will have access to ‘care while you wait’ service. Both Bupa and Healix Health Services offer various home treatments as a safer alternative to visiting hospital.

‘Vulnerable’ employees

In some cases, employees with a cancer diagnosis may have been told by their medical team to shield and/or socially isolate at home during the pandemic. If working from home is not possible, they should be placed on furlough through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme which has now been extended until the end of October.

As services start to come back to treat the most urgent cases in person it’s important to keep using the diagnosis and virtual consultations that are widely available.
IHC continue to be available for all clients and can provide advice and support on this or any other issue affecting your business during this difficult time.

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