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Cancer death rates in the UK may have fallen by almost 10 per cent in the last decade, but the number of cases is still going up. Given that so many of us are likely to be impacted by cancer during our working lives, it is important for employers to ensure they have the correct practices in place to help support employees who are diagnosed with the disease.

World Cancer Day provides a timely reminder and a prompt for policies to be reviewed and consideration to be given to employees and colleagues who are dealing with cancer.

When establishing if your business has the correct approach in place, it is crucial to look at the following factors:

Sensitivity is all important

As every good people manager knows, we are all individuals and need to be treated accordingly.
According to special guidelines from the CIPD, the professional body for HR and people development, “Managers need to be equipped with the knowledge to enable them to respond appropriately and support people with cancer in a way that suits them and maximises their chances of making a full recovery – and returning to work if that is what they want.”
One highly sensitive area concerns the issue of information sharing and managers will need to discuss and agree with employees what information on their condition they want to reveal to colleagues.

Employee rights exist

People affected by cancer are protected against discrimination by the Equality Act 2010. This protection exists from the point of diagnosis and employees who have caring responsibilities for someone with cancer are also protected.

Clarity of approach is needed

With the vast majority of employers not having a critical illness policy in place, there is a risk of badly managed employee relations and discrimination occurring. By cementing and communicating a company approach this risk can be minimised.

Tom Evans, Associate in DTM Legal’s employment team, said: “All companies should have a critical illness policy in place. Not only is a firm that has fair employment policies more attractive to potential employees, but it also ensures there are clear guidelines and practices in place for managing a serious illness in the best way for the employee and business operations. Being prepared in advance means both your employees and your business are protected”.

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If you feel you would benefit from further information or would like advice on how to put a critical illness policy in place please contact Associate in our employment law and human resources team, Tom Evans, on 0151 230 1217 or email

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