Just one in four (23%) of UK line managers would proactively explain to a colleague with a long-term health condition, such as cancer, their rights at work according to the Equality Act 2010, finds Working To Wellbeing’s Window to the Workplace research1.

The 2010 Equality Act2 considers a progressive condition, such as cancer, as a disability even if an individual is currently able to carry out normal day-to-day activities and are protected as soon as they have a diagnosis. UK employers have a responsibility to make reasonable adjustments to accommodate the needs of a person with a disability and these adjustments must be considered with a specific individual and their specific role in mind.

While encouragingly, almost three in four (72%) of UK line managers understand what reasonable adjustments mean when it comes to supporting colleagues with cancer, only 47% feel they would be able to offer and support them with some reasonable adjustments in their workplace, falling to just 40% of line managers aged under 35.

However, Working To Wellbeing found in its study that just over one in three (36%) of workers who have/had cancer in the workplace have been satisfied that they received reasonable adjustments to their job to manage their health. This falls even lower among women; to 33% of women vs 39% of men, and lower again among older workers (25% of those aged 55+).

Furthermore, among those UK workers who have/have had cancer:

  • only 29% have been satisfied with the physical workplace modificationsthey’ve been offered
  • 42% have been satisfied with the flexible workingoffered and 28% satisfied with the coaching offered
  • only 34% have been satisfied with the job redesign offered (37% of men vs 31% of women)

Macmillan3 estimates that there are currently 3 million people living with cancer and there are 890,000 people of working age living with cancer in the UK. Research4 by UK think-tank Policy Exchange, estimates the loss in productivity of survivors who were unable to return to paid work in the UK at £5.3bn in 2010 which could rise if, as expected, the number of people in the UK with cancer rises to 3.5m by 20253.

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

The growing incidence of cancer in the workforce is a risk that employers can not afford to ignore; or they will no doubt be faced with reduced productivity, low retention, poor morale and increased costs. As well as making business-sense to take the front-foot, employers have a legal obligation via the Equality Act 2010 to support employees with disabilities, including those diagnosed with cancer, ensuring reasonable adjustments are made for them at work.

 Dr Julie Denning, managing director, Working To Wellbeing


Research was conducted for Working To Wellbeing from 8-12 September 2023 among 566 UK line managers and 112 people who have / have had cancer in the workplace by Opinium Research


According to MacMillan Cancer Support – https://www.macmillan.org.uk/dfsmedia/1a6f23537f7f4519bb0cf14c45b2a629/9468-10061/2022-cancer-statistics-factsheet and https://be.macmillan.org.uk/be/s-1068-work-and-cancer.aspx

According to – https://cancersurvivorship.eiu.com/briefing-paper/

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.