Only four in 10 (43%) UK employees who have, or have had, cancer in the workplace have been satisfied with their return-to-work programme set out by their employer.

The Working To Wellbeing’s Window to the Workplace research1 found that satisfaction with their phased return-to-work programme falls even lower among older employees – to a third (32%) aged 55+ compared to almost two-thirds (63%) of those aged under 35.

Furthermore, just 40% of employees who have, or have had, cancer were satisfied with the level of personalisation of their return-to-work programme, dropping again among older workers – to just 25% of those aged over 55.

On the flipside, 70% of line managers told Working To Wellbeing in its study that they would be able to confidently offer and support colleagues with a long-term health condition such as cancer, with a phased return to work programme. Confidence in their ability is higher among younger workers (74% of under 35s vs 64% of line managers aged 55+).

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

Supporting colleagues with cancer in the workplace is not ‘just the right thing to do’ it is also a legal obligation. The 2010 Equality Act2 considers a progressive condition, including cancer, as a disability. Employers have a responsibility to make reasonable adjustments as part of a return-to-work programme to accommodate their needs with a specific individual and their specific role in mind.

Dr Julie Denning, managing director, Working To Wellbeing

Macmillan3 estimates there are currently 890,000 people of working age living with cancer in the UK. As the number of people of working age surviving cancer is expected to rise, this will see employers called upon more often to provide support to those transitioning back into work after treatment.

The back-to-work rehabilitation specialist found that over half (58%) of line managers think that it’s HR’s responsibility to manage a return-to-work programme for someone with cancer (23% “strongly agree”) and this rises among men (61% vs. 55% of women) and under 35s (63% vs. 53% of over 55s).

Furthermore, less than one in three (30%) of workers who have/had cancer in the workplace have been satisfied with the career advice they’ve been offered by their employer and this falls among women (25% vs 35% of men) and older workers (just 13% of over 55s vs 64% of under 35s).

Denning concluded:

It’s important first and foremost that both employees and their line managers are aware of the rights of people with cancer and then consider what a successful and sustainable return-to-work programme can look like and build from there.

Research was conducted for Working To Wellbeing from 8-12 September 2023 among 529 UK line managers and 108 people who have / have had cancer in the workplace by Opinium Research. 

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.