Health and Well-being: Supporting Employees Affected by Cancer.

Dylan Loughlin

Throughout Northern Ireland 25 people are diagnosed with Cancer every day. According to the Northern Ireland Cancer Registry (NICR), survival rates increased to over 70% by 2016. These statistics highlight the inevitability of a company employing an individual with cancer. This disease not only affects the employee’s relationship with their family and friends, it also affects the working relationship with their employer.

Although not duty bound, the Equality Commission and Macmillan Cancer Support suggests that it would be beneficial for employers to follow the 7 Good Practice Steps to give them an understanding on how to approach and deal with cancer victims working in their business.

Open Dialogue: provides employees with the opportunity to communicate and speak openly to their employers about any positive strategies that would be beneficial to the company or raise any concerns that may need to be addressed. Honest and open communication between employers and their staff is an essential ingredient to maintaining a successful business.

Be Flexible and listen: the ability to communicate in the workplace effectively is becoming increasingly important. Being an attentive listener will help employers advance their relationship and communication with employees. A solid and grounded understanding of the employee’s situation will allow for more knowledge-based decisions to be made, that is, the employer has not made any assumptions and therefore able to be responsive and flexible.

Compliance: The Disability Discrimination Act 1995 specifically focuses on Absence Management procedures, Equal Opportunities and Reasonable Adjustments. In some cases, an employee who lives with a cancer sufferer, may be unlawfully treated by way of associative discrimination.

Occupational Health: Evidence based decisions are extremely important for a business, therefore obtaining medical or occupational health reports will be valuable for an employer to make more informed justifiable decisions.

Return to work: this procedure is to ensure an employee has a smooth transition to ease back into work after a period of absence. It may be useful to refer to the “Disability Passport” which will assist in bi-annual review of each individual employee affected by cancer.

Training and Support: It is recommended that managers participate in specialist training courses to help spot the signs of disengagement amongst their employees, or any difficulties the employee may be experiencing. This, combined with support from our professional Human Resources and Employment Law team, will provide a solid platform for all parties involved.

Support and Services: The last three areas can be categorised under the one area of direction, and that is, to provide support networks for employees and employers. These organisations have been set up to provide guidance to all parties in relation to compliance, advice and well-being.

This is a guidance only and does not provide all the answers, but it certainly highlights the need for businesses to get on board and allow for a more pragmatic and agreeable way forward.

For more information see the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland “Support Employees Affected by Cancer”.

For further information and advice on protections under the DDA or assisting a return to work, please do not hesitate to contact a member of our professional team at Copacetic Business Solutions Ltd.