Seven ways to help your employees return to work after cancer

  Trumpet| CPD | Kate Field, Head of Information and Intelligence, IOSH | 26 June 2017

IOSH research report, Return to work after cancerWork is good for health and keeping people in work is good for business – this includes those living with cancer. There’s plenty of guidance on how to help people who are ill stay in work or return to work, including IOSH’s own guide ‘A healthy return’.

While the processes and good practice approaches required for successful rehabilitation would appear to be consistent for all types of ill health, when it comes to specific safety and health issues, there’s little direct evidence to support this assumption when it comes to cancer.

IOSH recently published the ‘Return to work after cancer: occupational safety and health considerations’ report to understand the implications of returning to work after cancer. Here are a few ways that we’ve identified to help make the return easier for employees and employers:


  1. Tailor your approach to the individual – this could include introducing a phased return to work or implementing flexible working. Make sure that you have developed a written plan for the return.
  2. Keep in constant communication throughout - meet formally and informally, keep key people involved throughout, including managers, HR, occupational health and OSH practitioners.
  3. Introduce a return-to-work policy, if you don’t already have one – make sure it covers all illnesses including cancer, and be sure to involve OSH practitioners in the development of the policy.
  4. Risk assess work tasks – think about this while employees are going through treatment as well as when they return to work. All assessments should take into consideration individual needs and risks, and be reviewed regularly.
  5. Try to reduce further risks – take all elements into consideration including the commute, meetings with clients and work tasks. Try to reduce or eliminate the possibility of risk, particularly around fatigue and infection.
  6. Keep key people up-to-date – share information with HR, line managers and OSH practitioners and consider training if necessary.
  7. Identify barriers to returning - would the role stop someone coming back? What symptoms need to be considered? Think about physical, as well as psychological, barriers.

You can download the full report on the IOSH website if you’d like to know more.

Thanks for reading Connect, and if you have any stories to tell or opinions to share, please email connect@iosh.com.

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