Cancer affects a significant number of individuals, with statistics showing that one in two people in the UK will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime. Among those diagnosed, 36% are of working age, meaning that many employees are navigating the challenges of a cancer diagnosis while still being actively employed.

As an employer, it is crucial to prioritise raising awareness of cancer in the workplace, fostering a culture of inclusion, support, and employee wellbeing.

This article provides essential tips on how to effectively raise awareness of cancer, highlight risk factors, encourage conversations, and provide cancer support to those employees impacted by cancer.

Encourage overall employee wellness

In the UK, around 40% of cancer cases are preventable, equating to more than 135,000 every year. To address the preventable causes of cancer, employers can educate employees about the risk factors associated with the disease. Some common risk factors include smoking, obesity, exposure to UV radiation, excessive alcohol consumption, and a lack of dietary fibre.

Employers can also implement several initiatives to encourage healthier lifestyles among employees, such as:

  • Providing information about cancer risk factors.
  • Promoting healthy eating habits by offering nutritious snacks like fruit, vegetables, yoghurts, and nuts.
  • Creating opportunities for exercise at work such as lunchtime classes or subsidising fitness memberships.
  • Participating in workplace quit-smoking campaigns.
  • Encouraging alternative commuting methods, such as cycling or walking.
  • Providing on-site employee health screenings.
  • Offering ergonomic furniture such as standing desks and under-desk treadmills.

Create an employee information bank

When employees or their loved ones receive a cancer diagnosis, they often have numerous questions and seek out information that can help them make sense of everything. Employees may also look for information about cancer if they notice changes in their health. Employers can raise awareness of cancer support avenues and resources by creating an information bank that their employees can access.

The NHS website serves as an excellent resource, covering various types of cancer. Additionally, many UK-based cancer charities provide free information and support for cancer patients, their families, friends, and carers. Furthermore, there are specific charities dedicated to particular types of cancer that offer more detailed information about these cancers’ diagnoses, symptoms and treatments.

Deliver events and staff training

A staggering 86% of line managers report not having received any training on how to support individuals with long-term conditions such as cancer. Employers can create a more understanding work environment by organising cancer awareness training for management, HR staff and other employees. Programs like Cancer Research’s Cancer Awareness in the Workplace and Macmillan at Work’s training and resources can provide valuable insights. It is also essential to provide training to all employees on how to support coworkers with cancer, enabling the entire workforce to engage in effective and supportive conversations about the disease.

Furthermore, raising awareness about the early signs and symptoms of cancer is crucial. Opening up conversations about sensitive topics can help employees recognise the importance of early detection and seeking medical advice, even if they feel embarrassed or uncomfortable.

Engage in national and local cancer events

Participating in national and local cancer events at work can serve multiple purposes. Not only can they help raise funds for cancer charities, but they can also encourage meaningful conversations about cancer within the workplace.

Many well-publicised events occur every year including Macmillan coffee mornings, Cancer Research UK’s Race For Life, Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Movember, and Brave the Shave. By actively engaging in these events, and involving employees in the planning of the event as well as the event itself, employers create opportunities for employees to open up, support one another, and raise awareness, all while contributing to a larger cause.

Encourage employees to utilise health benefits

Employers who provide health benefits like insurance, mental health support, screenings, or doctor’s visits should actively encourage employee uptake of these resources. Employees may be unaware of their entitlements or unsure about how to access them. Employers can address this issue by ensuring employees are informed about all available benefits and providing clear guidance.

Employers can share Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) details during the onboarding process, for example, or provide reminders through regular employee communications. Making use of health benefits can aid employees in early cancer detection and diagnosis, while mental health services can offer a safe space for employees to discuss their feelings and concerns.

In summary, raising awareness of cancer in the workplace is a vital step toward creating a supportive and inclusive environment for employees. By promoting overall good health and wellbeing, directing employees to reliable information sources, organising events and training, engaging in cancer-related initiatives, and encouraging the use of health benefits, employers can effectively raise awareness and demonstrate their commitment to their employees’ wellbeing. By actively addressing cancer in the workplace, employers contribute to a culture of empathy, understanding, and support, ensuring that employees navigating a cancer diagnosis feel valued and empowered.