Advances in early diagnoses and treatment mean that increasing numbers of people are surviving critical illnesses including cancer, and yet according to research from Group Risk Development (GRiD), the industry body for the group risk protection sector, a third (34 per cent) of employers do not provide financial support if staff are diagnosed with a serious illness such as cancer.
In fact, 9 per cent of a sample of 500 representative UK businesses, said that providing financial support ‘is not their responsibility’. Thankfully this view is only held by the minority of organisations, but as people survive this disease in increasing numbers (fifty per cent of people now survive cancer for 10 years or more), and many of those will want to return to the workforce, this is an issue that all employers will need to address.
Katharine Moxham, spokesperson for Group Risk Development (GRiD) said: “Employers can often feel at a loss about how to best support staff who are newly diagnosed with cancer, those who are currently going through treatment, and those who have recently overcome their illness. It can also be difficult to know exactly what is the right support to offer as the situation changes for the employee. However, with so many innovative group risk providers incorporating a wide range of additional support within their policies, providing access to financial support should now be the absolute baseline for employers who want to support their staff at this time, and there’s a wealth of extra help that can be tapped into.”
Practical and emotional support
Seventy-seven per cent of employers do however claim to offer some sort of practical and/or emotional support for staff if they are diagnosed with a serious illness such as cancer but some of this support may be funded by the employer directly rather than via an insurance policy.
- 33 per cent offer a staged or graded return to work
- 32 per cent offer emotional support such as counselling
- 27 per cent offer access to practical support such as access to a rehabilitation specialist
- 21 per cent offer access to medical specialists such as oncologists
- 18 per cent offer access to a second medical opinion service
- 16 per cent pay for treatment
- 13 per cent offer access to physiotherapy
However, 9 per cent also believe offering practical and emotional support is not their responsibility.
Katharine Moxham continued: “From emotional support such as counselling, through to practical support such as rehabilitation, group risk providers offer a range of meaningful solutions that provide access to financial, practical and emotional support; indeed, everything in this list that employers say they’re offering but may be funding themselves. As this support is provided by experts, they know exactly what an individual will need at a specific stage of their cancer diagnosis, without an employer trying to second guess and potentially get it wrong, and all the support is available as part of the policy.”
GRiD also warns employers about relying on paying for treatment themselves. This can be both expensive, difficult to budget for, as well as potentially discriminatory if all staff are not treated equally. Providing support via an employee benefit such as group protection is actually more effective, available at a fraction of the cost, and ensures equality.
No claim necessary
In addition to the financial support group risk protection offers to employees and their families, the embedded additional support is usually available even if no financial claim is made. Many employers may not realise the full extent of the added-value support available or that the support can be accessed without a claim, and therefore are not garnering maximum benefit for staff.
Moxham concluded: “In the event that an employee is diagnosed with cancer, it’s not just the individual who is watching and waiting to see how their employer will respond, but the wider body of staff will be monitoring the situation too. Many employers want to do the right thing by their staff, but from an employee relations points of view, it’s important they’re also aware that their actions are being judged by more than just the individual concerned.
“It’s highly likely that many employers are in fact better equipped to support employees with cancer than they currently appreciate. Let’s make this year’s Cancer Survivors Day the time that all employers take an in-depth look at their group risk policies, to see if they could be better supporting their staff by utilising all the available benefits.”