How can cancer survivors best be supported to return to work?

To mark the European Week Against Cancer, 25-31 May 2018,
the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA) publishes recent
findings from its project exploring the implications of cancer for workers and
workplaces across Europe. The publications identify instruments, practices,
policies and interventions that can promote the successful rehabilitation and
return to work of cancer survivors.

In addition to the detrimental effects that being out of work has on an
individual's well-being and finances, this situation has severe economic
consequences for businesses and society as a whole.

In Europe, about 1.4 million people of working age are diagnosed with cancer
each year. Although many of these people are able to continue working, the
average return to work rate is only 64 % after 18 months, and those surviving
cancer are 1.4 times more likely to be unemployed and three times more likely
to receive disability benefits.

"In addition to the detrimental effects that being out of work has on an
individual's well-being and finances, this situation has severe economic
consequences for businesses and society as a whole”, says EU-OSHA Executive
Director, Christa Sedlatschek. "In fact, in 2009, working days lost as a result
of cancer are estimated to have cost the European Union EUR 9.5 billion.
Therefore, it is essential that companies implement effective strategies to
help their employees get back to work following diagnosis of cancer."

Through its project ‘Rehabilitation and return to work after cancer -
instruments and practices', EU-OSHA aims to raise awareness of the problems
faced by workers affected by cancer and develop guidance for employers on how
to support them in returning to work.

Cancer survivors often experience psychological problems such as depression and
anxiety, as well as physical problems, particularly fatigue. These health
issues can reduce their ability to work and may be associated with negative
attitudes among colleagues. Scientific evidence suggests that multidisciplinary
interventions involving, for instance, a combination of physical and vocational
rehabilitation measures and counselling can help in achieving a successful
return to work.

Good practice examples

As part of the project, seven good practice examples from five EU Member States
were identified and analysed in depth. They demonstrate a range of approaches
to helping survivors get back to work.

The ‘Working through cancer' programme run by Macmillan Cancer Support in the
United Kingdom is an example of a particularly innovative intervention. This
comprehensive programme offers a range of resources - from online information
and e-learning modules to telephone support and in-company training courses -
specifically tailored to the needs of workers and their families, employers, HR
managers and healthcare providers. One of the programme's aims is to ensure
that employers understand the benefits of actively helping workers to get back
to work after treatment.

Several recommendations are made as a result of the success factors identified
in this project:
• Legislation should be developed making it mandatory for all businesses to
offer return-to-work programmes for workers, and support for this should be
provided, particularly for SMEs.
• Early implementation and good communication between all relevant stakeholders
is essential for effective return-to-work interventions, and programmes should
be tailored to workers' needs.
• Return-to-work programmes should be integrated into company policies, and
sufficient time and resources should be allocated to providing information on
cancer and return to work.
• Efforts should be made to encourage positive workplace attitudes towards
people returning to work after cancer.

Read the new report on instruments and practices (summary also available)

AplusA-online.de - Source: European Agency for Safety and Health at Work