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Blog: How to support a colleague diagnosed with cancer

colleague diagnosed with cancer

By Yvonne Hignell, Care & Support Services Director

4 February 2017 is the second ever World Cancer Day, for which 10 UK charities have come together to raise awareness about a disease which affects so many lives each year. According to Cancer Research UK, in 2014, there were around 450 deaths every day from cancer. This means that cancer will inevitably touch our lives at some point.

It can be hard to talk about cancer so, with this in mind, we wanted to offer some guidance on how to support an employee or colleague diagnosed with cancer.

Show sensitivity

It’s important to remember that each person’s situation and how they deal with cancer is different. The effect that cancer can have will also vary from person to person. Try to consider how it’s likely to impact on all aspects of their health and wellbeing: physical, mental, social and financial.

Take the time to find out what they need and don’t be afraid to ask how you can support them. If they’re not ready to talk, let them know they can approach you if they need to.

Listen and be understanding

Listen without judgement and try to get an understanding of how your employee or colleague feels and how cancer is affecting them.

Show you care

It’s fine to ask some questions when a colleague diagnosed with cancer is talking to you. This shows that you care and that you are genuinely interested in their situation and helping them however you can.

Impact on others

An employee’s cancer diagnosis can have a wider impact on other employees and their managers. If you need some more support then ask your line manager, contact your HR team or call us, we’re here for you.

You could also consider putting up a Ben poster on your staff noticeboard or letting your employees know that they can get in touch with us if they need to talk.

Right to privacy

If you are a manager, ask your employee whether they would like other colleagues to know about their situation. Should they want others to know, find out how they would like this to happen. If they will be off work for a while, ask them if they would like you to stay in contact and how they would like you to do so.

Company procedures

Does your organisation have any relevant policies or guidelines to support you and your employees in this kind of situation? For example, regarding sickness absence, long-term conditions and occupational health policies. You can also ask your HR team for advice.

Make reasonable adjustments

You may need to make reasonable adjustments in the workplace as cancer is legally defined as a disability. This means changes to the workplace or working arrangements that allow someone with a disability to work. Talk to your HR department or occupational health service for more advice.

Financial impact

Being unable to work for a long period of time may result in a drop in income at the same time as increased expenses such as heating, transport to and from hospital, and medical costs.

Your company may have financial policies in place to support employees who are unable to work because of sickness or injury. Additionally, people diagnosed with cancer may be entitled to some state benefits. We have details of some of these on our financial health pages.

More information

If you have been personally impacted by cancer, you can read more about this here.

We’re here

We exist to provide support for life to those who work in the automotive industry and their families. If you need practical support or advice, you can contact our free, confidential helpline on 08081 311 333 or use our online chat. These are open Monday to Friday, 8am to 8pm.

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