Offering vocational rehabilitation (VR) to support employees with a long-term health condition such as cancer could be a vital tool for retention, finds Working To Wellbeing’s Window to the Workplace research1.

Coming just after World Cancer Day, the study found almost half (49%) of UK workers would likely stay working with an employer longer-term if they were offered VR support to help them stay working or to return to work when they were ready after a long-term health condition such as cancer. This rises to 58% of adults under 35 and 63% of those aged 35-54.

Furthermore, Working To Wellbeing asked line managers their views on vocational rehabilitation and 80% agreed that rehabilitation to build physical, social and work skills is important after a long-term illness such as cancer. Nearly 8 in 10 (78%) line managers also agreed that personalised and timely vocational rehabilitation interventions do result in better work and health outcomes for people with cancer, rising to 82% of adults aged under 35.

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

Employers must understand how to prepare for both a phased, and personalised, return-to-work programme to accommodate the needs of their employees. Aside of their legal obligations, to ignore the importance of vocational rehabilitation risks impacting productivity, retention, morale and costs.

Dr Julie Denning, managing director, at Working To Wellbeing

Furthermore, among those who have/have had cancer, the study found:

  • Four in 10 (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)

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.


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. These figures have been weighted to be nationally representative

According to MacMillan Cancer Support – and

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.