When cancer strikes
When an employee suffers from cancer, their boss plays a key role. Both the employer and employee can benefit from identifying the needs of the sick employee and effectively managing work‑related challenges. As an employer, you have an important role to play.
The truth is that understanding the disease combined with one of your employees announcing that they have cancer can be as destabilizing for you as it is for your employee. In fact, your employee is probably mortified by the idea of telling you, not to mention, he is probably still reeling from the news he was just hit with. Imagine his state of mind. Imagine the whole range of emotions, worries, and concerns running through their head and in the heads of their partner, family… and, not to mention you. It’s a tough blow.
To help you, here’s what you need to know when one of your employees makes the announcement. Know that you are not alone. We are here for you at 1 855 899-2873.
Let your employee choose the meeting time. If you feel like he lacks the courage to come talk to you, take the initiative.
- Pay attention and let the employee know that you will not necessarily have the answer or solution to everything. Allow time for reflection if necessary.
- Ask questions and watch your employee’s reaction. If he is uncomfortable answering, do not insist.
- Let them know you are at their disposal.
- If your employee is taking sick leave, see whether or not he wishes to be informed about work.
- Never mention an employee’s state of heath without permission.
If the employee with cancer wishes to speak openly about his situation with the team, discuss it with the team to figure out the best time.
Be flexible with your employee. Let him change his work hours if necessary. He may have medical appointments or may need to reduce his work hours.
- If the employee wishes to continue working during his treatment, try to adjust his workload as needed.
- Many patients would like to benefit from time off for medical reasons (therapeutic part‑time work). See if you can offer your employee this opportunity when he returns.
Hearing that someone has cancer has an emotional impact, not only on the person affected, but also on their co‑workers and employer. In this situation it is necessary to be patient and understanding. Beware of negative behaviours from the team.
- Ensure that relationships are as normal and balanced as possible and encourage good communication between the sick employee and his colleagues.
- Show interest in your employee’s concerns.
Understanding the importance of work
For various reasons, it is important for most people with cancer to be able to continue working.
- Work may represent a type of “normal” routine for them
- Work may give them a sense of “control”
- For financial reasons, the employee cannot afford to lose his job.
An employee with cancer may also affect other employees. The latter may be upset and not know how to react. Employees may also feel pressure because the absences of a sick colleague may lead to an increase in their workload.
- Discuss the situation with your team and ask your employees if they are able to handle the extra work in the absence of their sick co‑worker.
- In this special situation, do you have the ability to reduce the team’s workload? To ask the question is to answer it.
Care trajectory and work reintegration
Have you never had to deal with an employee with cancer? We have provided you with a guide of your responsibilities as an employer—from understanding the concerns of your employees to the roles of your executives, managers, or human resources department. And remember, you are not alone. We are here for you at 1 855 899-2873.
Cancer is different for everyone
- Some needs, such as empathy, are very common in patients.
- The need for communication with the company can vary greatly from one person to the next.
- Do not forget that each person, supervisor or co‑worker, reacts differently to illness.
- Often, behind a patient there is a caregiver. Do not forget this!
Concerns of your employees and their loved ones
- Financial situation (difficulties)
- Physical and psychological consequences
- Return to and retention in the labour market
- Ongoing functional limitations
- Permanent disability for an undetermined period
We have identified three stages to guide you
Stage 1 – Diagnosis, the announcement of cancer, and your role
“When I told people about my cancer, I was afraid of how they would react and I felt guilty for dropping the workload on my colleagues. I need to be reassured, supported, and heard.”
Supervisor and co‑workers
- Take the time to think about the situation
- Seek advice from HR if necessary
- Empathy = support and listening
- Respecting his wishes and privacy: what can be said, to whom, and how
Supervisor and HR
- Reassure the employee of their place in the company
- Adopt a common strategy to manage the situation with HR to avoid confusion
- Check out PROCURE and call 1 855 899-2873
- Book a confidential meeting with one of our in‑house nurses specializing in uro‑oncology
Stage 2 – Cancer treatments and your role
“While I am away I still need to be reassured. I appreciate getting news and the fact that I am still considered to be an employee. Being able to continue working helps me maintain a professional identity and social ties.”
HR, supervisor, and co‑workers
- Getting news in a coordinated manner
- Maintaining the link between employee and company
- Relieving some of his workload by sharing some of the work with his colleagues or with his replacement
- Maintaining clear communication about the situation (work is not an obligation)
If the employee chooses to work, strike a balance between an empathetic and normal attitude. Having some flexibility in dealing with unforeseen issues and meeting for periodic assessments could help.
Stage 3 – Professional reintegration
“When I get back, I need to see that my company has prepared for my gradual return. I would appreciate a welcome‑back meeting on my first day. It is also important to me that people understand that some symptoms like fatigue and anxiety can persist long after treatment is complete.”
HR and supervisor
- Allow for a gradual return to work.
- Organize a welcome‑back meeting—show that you are interested in their well‑being.
- Keep in mind that the employee could be prone to fatigue and possible anxiety for a while.
- Offer a flexible work schedule if possible.
- Talk to the person if you notice that he is overcome with fear, both physically and mentally, of being discriminated against and/or of losing his job.
- Schedule meetings for periodic assessments.
- Be as understanding as possible of changes in attitude towards work and show flexibility
- Emphasize the balance between empathetic and normal attitudes.
Even if the treatment is over, there may be other issues that need to be addressed such as adapting to long‑term side effects, marital life, and long‑term plans. The family doctor, health professionals, you, and your employer, play a key role in the care of patients and their reintegration into the workplace.
Our corporate program can bring you the same support as our health professionals.