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Supporting Employees Through Cancer

Did you know According to Cancer Research UK, every day in the UK there are 1000 new cases. When we sit down to write a blog we want it to be relevant, current and beneficial. We want to touch on subjects which are worthy of discussion but ultimately can help organisations improve their workplaces.

This week we were saddened to learn of the tragic passing of Girls Aloud singer Sarah Harding, 39, from breast cancer. This felt like a good time to touch on what we, managers, and HR professionals, can do to ease the journey for our employees who may be in a similar situation.


How can employers support employees with cancer?

  • Ensure that you agree together what information will be shared with colleagues and ensure that your employee knows of additional staff members you are obliged to tell, for example, HR or Occupational Health.

It’s likely that the wider team will need some guidance on how best to support the member of staff.  Once the employee confirms the approach that they would prefer to take, communicate with the wider team sensitively and carefully.

  • Make sure you know what, if any, employee benefits you have. You could be able to offer counselling services etc. Make sure you know how to access these, and you can support your employee through the process.
  • Consider what reasonable adjustments you can make, discuss these with your employee to formulate a plan together. This will ensure they are able to work when they can, but most importantly, they feel supported and empowered to work when they can.
  • Remember that this employee is someone who is balancing a job, a personal life, treatment and illness and some days will be harder than others.


How can you support employees caring for someone with cancer?

  • Consider flexible working arrangements which will allow your employee to manage their time effectively.
  • Remember that work might be a welcome distraction to your employee if they are caring for someone with cancer, always check in on them in a sensitive manner.
  • Remember that coming to work will allow your employee the time to “be themselves” and not “a carer”
  • Remember that this employee is someone who is balancing a job, a personal live and caring responsibilities and some days will be harder than others.
  • Consider amendments to their roles and responsibilities on either a short or long term basis which would support them. 

Things to remember:

  • Cancer patients can suffer fatigue which can affect their concentration and can even result in physical symptoms such as dizziness.
  • Cancer patients can suffer physical changes, this can include weight gain or loss, scarring or hair loss. It is important that your other team members are prepared and respectful of this.
  • Carers can be called with little or no notice, they may be tired, worried or anxious, be considerate.

As HR professionals we have a duty of care to guide our employees and understand in these circumstances that “one size does not fit all”. We need to be proactive, adaptive, and supportive and our policies and processes should be reflective of this.

We are here to help review your existing policies or suggest new ones which may benefit your business and employees.

We suggest:

Compassionate Leave

Dedicated Carers Leave

Bereavement Leave

Long Term Absence

Policy on Leave for Elective Surgery

Flexible Working

Leave Policy – Time off for Appointments


For further help and support

Cancer – NHS (

Cancer Research UK

Cancer information and support – Macmillan Cancer Support


Or if you would like some further advice around this topic in the workplace – please contact us on 01352 878535, 07736 631759 or