Support for employees with a cancer diagnosis
36% of people believe they would get no support from their employer if they were diagnosed with cancer

36% of people believe they would get no support from their employer if they were diagnosed with cancer. Furthermore this rises to 45% of employees who have, or have suffered from it in the past new research from Canada Life has shown.

Cancer affects one in two people during their lifetime. Incidence rates amongst people aged 25-49 have risen by 20% in the past 20 years. However, a fifth of respondents had no idea if their employer would offer any support if they were diagnosed.

Less than a third of respondents thought they would be granted flexible working and time off when needed.  Also this fell to just over a quarter of those people who have experienced cancer before. People do not feel they could fit their work around treatment, recuperation or bad days. Just 25% of respondents thought they would be given return-to-work support on recovery.

Which of the following forms of support do you think your workplace would provide if you were diagnosed?

  • Flexible working and time off when needed 31%
  • Return-to-work support on recovery 25%
  • Access to occupational health services 16%
  • Adjusted workloads/appraisals/performance targets 16%
  • Counselling and emotional support through the workplace 13%
  • Financial benefits, e.g. critical illness cover 10%
  • Second medical opinion services 6%
  • Assistance in the purchasing of private healthcare 4%
  • A Personal Nurse Service for practical and emotional support 4%
  • None of the above 36%
  • Don’t know 21%

Employees would be uncomfortable approaching their boss or colleagues

The research also revealed that two in five respondents would be uncomfortable talking to their employer and/or colleagues about a diagnosis. Over one in ten people say they would be scared to tell their employer in case it appeared they were no longer up to the job. Whilst almost a fifth of respondents would feel uncomfortable asking for time off. Also a sizeable minority of respondents would not be willing to tell their colleagues about a diagnosis. With 15% of people said they would prefer to keep it to themselves.  Even more people said they would feel awkward discussing cancer with their employer.

Other research

Macmillan research has found that

  • 1 in 3 (or 750,000) people with cancer in the UK are of working age.
  • This is estimated to rise to 1.7 million by 2030.
  • 85% of people with cancer, who were in work when diagnosed, say it is important to work.
  • People with cancer are currently 1.4 times more likely to be unemployed than the general population.
  • Only 2% of people with cancer have access to vocational rehabilitation.


Macmillan provide some excellent free resources about cancer and work.  These include information targeted at professionals, employers, employees, the self employed and business owners.

Talking about cancer at work

The impact cancer may have on work

Reasonable adjustments guide

Cancer and work

Resources for professionals

E-learning on vocational rehabilitation for professionals