Cancer and employment survey

Summary of key findings

Bevan S, Wilson B |   | Institute for Employment Studies / Working with Cancer | Feb 2022

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Despite an encouraging increase in survival from cancer in recent years the proportion of people living with cancer who return successfully to work remains disappointingly low. In this survey of over 1200 people living with cancer, we explore the factors which make a successful, sustainable and fulfilling return to work more likely, and explore the barriers which remain for those returning to work during or after treatment.

Survey findings include: 

  • Only 57% of cancer patients returning to work knew they were legally disabled under the 2010 Equality Act.
  • Over half said that their medical teams or occupational health professionals did not discuss their return to work, and only 22% of HR departments told patients about their right to ask for reasonable adjustments and a phased return to work.
  • A third of respondents did not make a phased return to work and a quarter had to take annual leave to receive vital cancer treatment.
  • While most respondents had received positive support from their colleagues and line managers, a significant minority experienced bullying, being shunned at work and redundancy.
  • Those living with advanced or metastatic cancer reported receiving lower levels of support and access to workplace adjustments, suggesting that many employers find it more difficult to know how to support patients with complex cancers and those with a terminal diagnosis.

The IES and Working with Cancer team are conducting follow-up interviews with some of our survey respondents and will be conducting more detailed survey analysis in the coming months to examine the experiences and preferences of specific groups of people living with cancer.