You may also need to consider workplace adjustments for the employee – while they’re undergoing treatment as well as when they’re in recovery. This could include alterations to their working pattern such as a phased return to normal duties, home working or allowing for more frequent breaks. HR professionals should ensure that managers know where to find information on what their organisation offers in this regard such as how to refer the employee to their occupational health scheme or employee assistance programme, if they have them.
Managers may also need to be encouraged to modify their management style when employees return to work. And, as a part of this, managers and employees should agree a preferred way of working – for example, the frequency of catch-ups about how the employee is doing and their workload and how they’ll let the manager know if they need additional support. It’s also likely that their needs will evolve as they recover and regain their strength and confidence.
Employees affected by cancer – or any potentially life changing illness – may need time off for appointments, treatment and recovery, so make sure that managers in your company are aware of and understand your policies on flexible working (including paid, unpaid and compassionate leave) to allow for this as appropriate.
Fundamentally, any support that an employer puts in place should aim to facilitate a smooth transition so that returning to work does not feel like an upheaval or put unnecessary strain on the employee. Work can provide a comforting sense of routine and stability so HR and managers should work together to try to ensure that, by accommodating the returning employees’ needs, they are able to retain these talented and valued members of their team. An open, honest and understanding approach to communication is key to overcoming the stigma associated with cancer and, in turn, to successfully managing employees affected by the condition.