Discrimination against cancer victims returning to work can be as high as 18% according to research released by Macmillan Cancer Support and YouGov.
The research was based on the experiences of 836 employees who had been diagnosed with cancer, undergone treatment and then returned to work. Researchers found that nearly a fifth (18%) had been discriminated against by their employer or a work colleague.
The charity reported that the vast majority of people in work when they were diagnosed with cancer returned to work because it was important to them. 60% of respondents said that they wanted to “maintain a sense of normality”, while 45% said they enjoyed their job and 54% cited the reason for returning to work as needing the money.
Macmillan Cancer Support said it was “worrying” that 15% of those surveyed said that they had returned to work before they felt ready, while 35% reported negative experiences unrelated to workplace discrimination against cancer victims returning to work. This category included feelings of guilt for taking time off to attend hospital appointments and a loss of confidence in their ability to do their job.
The charity warned that employers must take measures to prevent discrimination against cancer victims returning to work. Due to improvements in survival rates and later retirement ages, the number of people returning to work after undergoing treatment for cancer has been predicted to reach 1.7 million by 2030. Liz Egan – a spokesperson for Macmillan Cancer Support – said:
“People living with cancer should know that they have the full support of their employer to return to work, if they want and are able to do so. It’s appalling that, during an already difficult and often stressful time, so many employers are not offering the right support to people with cancer, leaving them with little choice but to leave.
“We know that, for many people living with cancer, work helps them to feel more in control and maintain a sense of normality. Returning to work after cancer can also be an integral part of their recovery, so it is crucial that employers show support and understanding to make this a reality.”