New research conducted by Reframe Cancer sheds light on the substantial financial burden faced by UK businesses due to cancer-related absences among employees.

The study, part of The Employee Experience report: Living and working with cancer, underscores the challenges employees encounter during their cancer journey and highlights the disparities in employee benefit offerings.

According to the findings, the average employee will require approximately 15 weeks of absence from work during their cancer journey, equating to around 75 working days based on full-time employment. With an estimated 160,000 people of working age diagnosed with cancer annually and an average employee salary of £34,963, UK businesses could potentially face a staggering cost of £1.6 billion due to cancer-related absences.

The research reveals that employees take time off work at various stages of their cancer journey, including pre-diagnosis worries and symptoms, diagnosis and testing, treatment, and recovery. Alarmingly, over half of employees delay informing their employers about their cancer diagnosis, resulting in extended absences before seeking support.

Discrepancies in Employee Benefit Satisfaction

Despite the significance of employee benefits during the cancer journey, the study indicates a disparity between the benefits offered by employers and employees’ perceived needs. A substantial majority (77%) of employees with cancer feel that the employee benefits provided to them do not adequately meet their needs. Notably, dissatisfaction levels remain high across different income brackets and tenure lengths, suggesting a widespread issue that transcends demographic boundaries.

The research also highlights disparities in access to private healthcare, with only a minority of employees receiving private medical treatment for cancer. Gender and socioeconomic factors play a significant role in determining access to private healthcare, with a stark gender divide observed in the provision of private cancer care treatment. Furthermore, seniority within organisations correlates with access to private healthcare, indicating inequities in healthcare access based on professional hierarchy.

Mark Stephenson, CEO at Reframe Cancer, emphasised the urgency of addressing the challenges faced by employees working with cancer. He highlighted the need for comprehensive cancer support in the workplace, underscoring the role of employers, brokers, and insurers in providing adequate support to employees navigating the complexities of cancer treatment and recovery.

Brian Walters, Managing Director of Regency Health, echoed the importance of private medical insurance (PMI) in alleviating the strain on the National Health Service (NHS) and supporting employees during their cancer journey. He stressed the significance of advisers understanding the importance of comprehensive cancer cover in employee benefits packages, thereby ensuring adequate support for employees facing cancer-related challenges in the workplace.