WHAT EMPLOYERS NEED TO KNOW
By Chris Bonnett and Allan Smofsky
Being told that you or someone close to you has cancer is
devastating. But two facts may surprise you: first, can-cer
is now considered a chronic disease because there are
more than 810,000 10-year survivors in Canada; second,
this matters to employers because 43 per cent of all cancer diag-noses
occur in working-age Canadians, including 70 per cent of all
breast cancer diagnoses. If your company has not yet faced this is-sue,
it is unlikely to be so lucky forever. There is now nearly a 50
per cent lifetime probability of any one of us getting cancer.
What won’t surprise you is that cancer creates significant work-place
costs in drugs, absence, disability and presenteeism and
caregiving. It disrupts lives, plans and work schedules. Just like
mental illnesses, cancer can lead to negative and unfair behaviours
among leaders, managers and co-workers. Most employers know
they have a general legal obligation to accommodate an employee
receiving treatment or who wants to return to work (RTW), but
often struggle with how to do this in a way that makes sense for
the business, the employee and co-workers.
The goal of a new discussion paper, Improving Cancer
Management in the Workplace, is to review and translate recent,
high-quality research into practical guidance that helps human
resources professionals better manage cancer – and health. In
essence, workplaces need a more strategic, comprehensive and in-tegrated
approach to health that includes cancer.
The discussion paper examines workplace best practices, pro-vides
an employee’s perspective on return to (or staying at) work,
and establishes principles and practices for progressive employers
and other workplace stakeholders. Though cancer is still too often
fatal, HR policies and programs need to reflect that cancer is – in-creasingly
– not the end of a career.
Below are insights from the authors’ review of more than three doz-en
academic papers and reports as well as six stakeholder interviews.
BEST PRACTICE INSIGHTS
Cancer and work has attracted a growing body of research in
recent years, largely as a result of improved survival among work-ing
age patients. Management responsibilities, whether for HR
managers or line management, start with planning the difficult
transitions both away from work at diagnosis, and upon RTW
during and following treatment.
Photographee.eu / Shutterstock.com
24 ❚ SEPTEMBER 2017 ❚ HR PROFESSIONAL