Returning to work after cancer is tough, but once back, one in five past patients encounter discrimination as a result of their illness, a new report has revealed.
The research, by Macmillan Cancer Support, suggests thousands of employees are experiencing discrimination in the forms of demotion and even dismissal.
Worryingly, the research also found more than a fifth (22 per cent) of managers have concerns about employing someone who has or has had cancer. What’s more, nearly a tenth (8 per cent) of managers fear someone could use their illness as an excuse not to pull their weight at work.
The charity said it’s received a 74 per cent increase in calls to its Work Support Service from cancer survivors over two years, and is now expanding the helpline to meet demand. It received nearly 3,000 calls about work issues this year alone.
The survey of 1,500 people who were employed when diagnosed with cancer found some workers experienced a lack of understanding of their needs from their employer (9 per cent) and colleagues (8 per cent). Another 4 per cent reported losing their jobs as a result of their diagnosis.
Macmillan is warning bosses they are breaking the law if they don’t provide the necessary support, such as reasonable adjustments, to employees with cancer – which is classed as a disability under the Equality Act.
A separate survey from the charity of more than 1,000 line managers found more than a third (34 per cent) of managers worry their employee will not stay long in the job and nearly a tenth (8 per cent) fear someone could use their illness as an excuse not to pull their weight at work.
Around one in eight managers have concerns about the impact of the diagnosis on other staff, with some worried it could cause awkwardness (13 per cent) or resentment (12 per cent) among colleagues.
Former web developer Jordan Taylor, 24, from Telford, Shropshire, was diagnosed with testicular cancer earlier this year and said his colleagues “felt like a family” before he was diagnosed, but their attitudes towards him completely changed.
“When I returned to work after treatment I was called into a meeting by my boss, who said performance was down in my absence and that companies had complained. There was no time to ease back into my role or any mention of reasonable adjustments to help me during recovery,” he said.
“Shortly after my return, I was told my whole team was facing redundancy. A few colleagues insinuated that it was my fault, even though I was ill – it was awful and caused me a huge amount of worry.”
Liz Egan, who leads the Working Through Cancer programme at Macmillan Cancer Support, described the latest figures as “staggering”.
“We want to be able to support everyone living with cancer who needs us and are reliant on generous donations from the public to provide services like this,” she said.
Macmillan Cancer Support and its team of trained work support advisors for employees with cancer can be called for free help and support on 0808 808 00 00 (Monday – Friday, 9am-5pm). Information is also available at www.macmillan.org.uk/work