More than one in five (21%) of UK employees who have, or have had, cancer in the workplace have not been satisfied with the communication from their line manager or employer during a period of ill-health, finds Working To Wellbeing’s Window to the Workplace research.

Furthermore, as Macmillan2 estimates there are currently 890,000 people of working age living with cancer in the UK, not only are some employees unhappy with the openness of communication with their employer, but a quarter (25%) in the research also said they did not feel heard or listened to by their line manager during a period of ill health.

Despite this, 8 in 10 line managers (82%) do feel it’s important to keep in touch regularly at set “check-in” times with colleagues who have a long-term health condition such as cancer when they are out of work due to ill health.

Dr Julie Denning, managing director, chartered health psychologist at Working To Wellbeing and Chair of the Vocational Rehabilitation Association said:

Earlier diagnoses and developments in treatments mean that cancer survival rates are rising and more people with cancer are heading back into the workplace. But more often than not, there will be times when they need to take time away from work for medical appointments or a period of ill-health. Open communication is crucial; employees need to be heard and line managers need to have the skills and the tools in place to both listen and act with confidence.

Dr Julie Denning, managing director, chartered health psychologist at Working To Wellbeing

Upskilling line managers

The Working To Wellbeing Window to the Workplace study also found that 65% of line managers feel confident they could talk to a colleague with a long-term illness such as cancer about their condition, while 20% were unsure and 12% said they couldn’t confidently talk with them.

Just one in two (50%) of line managers feel equipped with sufficient resources and training to support a colleague with a long-term health condition such as cancer, falling to just 39% of those aged 55+.

The report has also found, among those who have/have had cancer:

  • Four in ten (43%) were satisfied with the phased return-to-work programme set out by their employer, falling to a third (32%) among those aged 55+
  • Just 40% were satisfied with a personalised return-to-work programme (25% among those aged 55+)
  • Less than 1 in 3 (29%) were satisfied with physical modifications in the workplace, falling to 11% of over 55s
  • Over a third (36%) were satisfied with the wellbeing / mental health support offered, falling to 25% among those aged 55+
  • More than a quarter (28%) were satisfied with the level of coaching (11% of over 55s)
  • 4 in 10 (42%) were satisfied with the level of flexible working (28% of over 55s)
  • Over a third (36%) were satisfied with the reasonable adjustments to their job to manage their health
  • Less than one in three (30%) were satisfied with the career advice they’ve been offered by their employer and this falls among women (25% vs 35% of men) and those aged 55+ (just 13% of those 55 and over vs 64% of adults under 35s)
Editor at Workplace Wellbeing Professional | Website | + posts

Joanne is the editor for Workplace Wellbeing Professional and has a keen interest in promoting the safety and wellbeing of the global workforce. After earning a bachelor's degree in English literature and media studies, she taught English in China and Vietnam for two years. Before joining Work Well Pro, Joanne worked as a marketing coordinator for luxury property, where her responsibilities included blog writing, photography, and video creation.