Dealing with cancer in the workplace

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By NigelB | Wednesday, October 31, 2012, 16:21

Cancer is a devastating condition for everyone concerned that leaves patients and carers feeling isolated, often facing financial difficulties and lacking in confidence, with many being forced to give up work.

For employers too it can also raise a number of significant challenges when staff are affected by cancer.

Leading professionals are holding a free seminar in Cornwall on Wednesday, November 14 aimed at helping organisations plan for and cope with such an occurrence.

Few workplaces are untouched by the disease, with 100,000 new cases diagnosed in the UK every year.

The loss of valuable expertise and experience, emotional distress for other team members can cause significant problems for employers.

The cost of recruitment and training alone is quoted as being an average of £4000.

Those affected are not necessarily suffering from the condition, as some 800,000 people, mainly of working age, currently care for someone with cancer.

Carers and patients often find they have to leave their jobs even though they are willing and able to keep working, but with cancer classified as a disability, employers can find themselves facing a discrimination claim if a staff member with cancer is forced to leave.

The free half-day Cornwall event, including lunch, is on Wednesday 14 November. 

It is designed to help businesses and public sector employers understand what they can do to support staff affected by cancer, as either a patient or a carer.

The session is being run by the local NHS, Cornwall Council and Macmillan Cancer Support, at Pool Innovation Centre, Redruth and will cover the signs and symptoms of cancer, prevention, screening and treatment.

 It will then look at support available to businesses and individuals, and how existing organisations have made some simple changes to help those affected by cancer in the workplace.

Nikki Thomas, Nurse Director with the Peninsula Cancer Network, said, "While good treatment means more and more people are beating cancer, too often they're unable to get back to work for want of some simple support. 

"The individual suffers and the business suffers.

"What we want to do is show employers some of the easy things they can do to help. People might need to increase their hours gradually when coming back to work, for example, or carers might need a bit more flexibility.

"There's no charge for the session and there's even a free lunch, so all it will take is a bit of time."

Employers can sign up for the session at Redruth via the Peninsula Cancer Network website. Go to: www.peninsulacancernetwork.org.uk.

For those who would like to find out more, please contact Louise Bradford on 01803 860662 or via: louise.bradford@nhs.net

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