Up to 63,000 people with cancer, who want to work, are being held back because of lack of support from their employer, a new report on behalf of cancer charity Maggie's said.
There are half a million people with cancer currently in the workforce, contributing £16 billion a year to the UK economy.
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However, thousands more are being held back because of lack of support. While work can be vital in helping cancer sufferers rebuild their lives, research shows that negative experiences at work can lead to a triple whammy effect; the trauma of diagnosis and treatment; job loss or bad experience at work and collapse in self-esteem.
Maggie's is launching a partnership to provide support to address these barriers through educational events at nine Maggie's centres across the UK.
Judy Wilson, 60, a teacher from Angus, says support from her employer made a huge difference.
She said: "During that time, my boss always met me once a month and assured me that my job was there."
The mother-of-four was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in April 2011 and started treatment the following month. Mrs Wilson had a hysterectomy and six sessions of chemotherapy and was in bed for up to 10 days after each session.
“My boss encouraged me to come into school as much as possible, not to work, but to see everybody. I was very much in favour of that because I think you can get into the situation where you are frightened to go in, nobody knows what to say to you.”
Unlike a lot of employers, Mrs Wilson’s school was very good about not asking when she was coming back to work.
She tried to go back in December 2011 but her boss told her she wasn’t well enough and should come back after Christmas. She returned again in January on a phased return and is now working full-time in a new role as head of the science faculty.
“I hear of people who have terrible bosses and just have the most terrible time. I have been surrounded by love and support my entire journey and that makes such a massive difference.”
Maggie’s is working alongside rehabilitation experts Unum to deliver the educational events and resources to encourage more businesses to offer support.