Over 30 global firms pledge cancer support for employees

Out-Law News | 31 Jan 2023 | 10:27 am |

Penny Simmons tells HRNews and Channel 5 News about surviving cancer and support firms can offer employees 

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  • Transcript

    More than 30 of the world’s most influential companies have pledged their support for a new cross-industry coalition that plans to erase the stigma of cancer in the workplace.

    The campaign was launched on 17 January at the World Economic Forum in Davos and has been developed by the Publicis Foundation in partnership with leading cancer organisations and charities. It has already received the backing of big-name businesses including the names on-screen - AbbVie, Adobe, Axa, Bank of America, BNP Paribas, BT, Carrefour, Citi, Disney, EE, Google, Haleon, L’Oréal, Lloyds Banking Group, LVMH, Marriott, McDonald’s, Meta, Mondelēz, Microsoft, MSD, Nestlé, Orange, Omnicom, PepsiCo, Reckitt, Renault Group, Sanofi, Toyota, Unilever, Verizon and Walmart.

    People Management reports on this and highlights the shocking statistic that one in two people will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime and, of those with cancer, half are ‘afraid to tell their employer about their diagnosis’. Companies are being urged to sign up to the Working With Cancer pledge, which is a ‘commitment to building the most open, supportive and recovery-forward work cultures for their employees’. The article refers to research by the CIPD in its guide for Managing and supporting employees with long-term health conditions including cancer. It shows only a third, 32%, of HR professionals said their organisation had a well-communicated workplace adjustment process, suggesting that too many people are not accessing the help and support available to them. 

    The same research found that half of HR professionals thought line managers lacked the knowledge and confidence to manage people with long-term health conditions. Almost two fifths, 38%, reported experiencing challenges in supporting managers to develop an understanding about making reasonable adjustments.

    As you may have noticed, last week was Cervical Cancer Prevention Week. The campaign is geared towards one central message – that cervical cancer can be prevented. Channel 5 News covered this last week and Pinsent Masons tax specialist and cancer survivor, Penny Simmons, was interviewed by Dan Walker. Here’s a clip:
    Channel 5 News – video excerpt

    Shortly after that interview I was able to catch up with Penny and I asked her whether she had a message for HR:

    Penny Simmons: “I think the message that I would make is that going for a smear test for women can be difficult. It's not a pleasant experience, and it can be difficult for lots of women, and that employers have an important role to play in making that process as easy as possible. So, making sure that women don't feel like they can't take the time off work. It’s difficult to actually go for that test because of work and I think that's where employers come in. They can make it easier for women, so they may be worrying about the smear test itself, but they're not worrying about can I leave work a bit early, can I take some time out during the middle of the day to go for the test itself?”

    Joe Glavina: “The research on this shows employers should, and could, do more to support women. What’s your impression of employers’ attitudes to this subject? Is it a case of not having the right policies in place perhaps?”

    Penny Simmons: “No, I would expect so. I would expect that the attitudes are great, actually, and it should be easier than it than it ever was, particularly with more flexible working and lots of people were able to work from home. I think it's not that the policies aren't there, and it's not that it's not okay within a business because I'm sure nine times out of ten the policies exist and it is absolutely okay, and it should always be okay. It's more making sure that employees are aware of those policies, and they're aware that it is okay to leave work a bit early, take a little bit of time out of the day, whether you're working from home or you're working from the office, to go for wellness checks such as smear test, which really are so important.”

    The CIPD’s guide we mentioned earlier is called: ‘Managing and supporting employees with long-term health conditions – guide for people professionals’ and, of course, it covers cancer. We have put a link to it in the transcript of this programme.

    - Link to CIPD guide: ‘Managing and supporting employees with long-term health conditions – guide for people professionals’

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