I came across some pretty alarming statistics the other day regarding cancer’s impact on the workplace.
The report, from the Integrated Benefits Institute, shows cancer typically costs employers about $19,000 annually per 100 employees in lost work time and medical treatments.
Broken down, lost work time and underperformance at work, the latter also known as presenteeism, due to cancer costs employers $10,000 per 100 workers, and medical and pharmacy treatments cost about $9,100. Employees with cancer, the report says, are absent 3.8 more days per year than workers without cancer, and also lose the equivalent of 1.8 more days per year to presenteeism.
In the words of Tom Parry, IBI president:
Cancers present complex challenges for the workplace. At a basic, human level, a cancer diagnosis is a frightening, sometimes emotionally devastating, event. It is natural that co-workers and supervisors will want to provide support to a friend and colleague when told he or she has cancer. At the same time, balancing privacy and workplace accommodation is a critical, but sensitive, issue. Many employees with cancer will frequently feel too sick to work, while others report that remaining on the job keeps them ‘connected’ and provides a sense of routine as they undergo treatment.”
Considering there are very few of us who have not been touched by cancer, myself included (my father is undergoing chemo as we speak), I’m thinking the disease must touch just about every workplace as well. So, given the prevalence and inherent challenges in addressing it, what are employers to do?
The IBI report suggests upping your commitment to workplace-based cancer screening and job accommodations. Here are some of those advantages, according to the study:
- Compliance rates with cancer-screening guidelines are highest when there is access through insurance-plan coverage.
- Workplace educational programs have been shown to raise awareness of and screening for colorectal cancer.
- Workplace screening for breast cancer reduces lost productivity.
- Employees whose breast cancer was detected early through on-site mammography experienced half as many lost workdays for treatment as employees whose cancer was detected later.
- Providing job accommodations or other workplace stay-at-work or return-to-work opportunities has been shown to help employees with cancer remain on the job.
Also worth looking into, if you haven’t already, is the National Business Group on Health’s cancer guide, An Employer’s Guide to Cancer Treatment and Prevention, which I blogged about back in November.
In that post, I suggest we’re only going to see cancer cases at work grow as baby boomers age and stay in the workplace. It’s … well … increasingly part of life. And getting older. Ask my dad.
As Helen Darling, retiring NBGH president and CEO, puts it in the November post:
Today, more than ever, employers are facing the growing impact of cancer … . With significant gains in cancer survival rates and most cancer survivors staying at work during their treatment or returning to work after their treatment, employers need a comprehensive benefits plan to ensure that their current strategies to address cancer in the workplace complement the needs of their employees. Cancer casts a wide net, affecting not only those diagnosed with the disease, but also family members, friends, managers and co-workers. The impact on a company’s culture can be profound.”