There’s simply no sugar coating it: according to the Cancer Council, Australian workplaces should prepare for more of their employees to be diagnosed with cancer.
No longer considered just a “disease of the old people” as the organisation’s director of information Gillian Batt put it, “we are picking up prostate and breast cancer much earlier. We are actually identifying it while people are still working,” she told News.com.au.
Case and point: over 40 per cent of cancer cases occur during our prime working years, between ages 18 to 65.
According to the Cancer Council’s literature, approximately 67 per cent of Australian employees continue working through their cancer treatments, but between 10 and 38 per cent of employees do not return to work following treatment.
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One of the key ways to deal with this daunting reality in-office, says Batt, is to encourage open communication among bosses and colleagues to help create a supportive environment.
“It’s not rocket science, but actually people are very, very scared of talking about it,” she said. However, according to the Cancer Council, one-third of employees diagnosed with cancer choose to tell their close colleagues and encourage them to let others know.
For managers, offering alternative work arrangements to an employee being treated for cancer is another crucial step in their success: the Cancer Council found that those who are not given other options during and following cancer treatment were up to 15 times more likely to experience financial burdens.
“It’s about reassuring someone that we can work through this, we can look at how to rearrange your role,” Batt said.