Based on 2011/2012 results from the Pathway to Health and Productivity report produced by TowersWatson, the affect of current economic times, increasing workplace stress and the challenge of changing unhealthy employee lifestyles, it is no wonder that we are seeing an increase in direct medical costs as well as indirect costs related to absenteeism, overtime and replacement workers.
In 2010, a report by Healthx.com indicated that indirect costs related to complex chronic diseases including cancer represent $58 billion dollars annual in lost productivity and premature mortality. These are staggering large numbers and will be difficult to economically sustain as the demographic shift of an aging population sees Baby Boomers fully hit their 'greying' years.
Part 1 of this series indicated that 40 percent of Canadians will develop some for cancer in their lifetime and that research shows that almost half of all cancers are preventable. For companies that have a strategic focus to address effective wellness strategies, the Pathway to Health and Productivity report notes that benefit plans may result in 30 percent savings.
With cancer being the leader in premature death in Canada, it is a chronic disease that employers need to take note of. When faced with employees who disclosure their cancer diagnosis, employers are encouraged to consider engaging them directly to discuss and determine important considerations.
Options for time off: ask the employee how to best to support his needs; particularly as it relates to appointments for treatment or days when he may be too ill to come to work. During treatment, the employee may not feel well enough to come into work and the ability for flexible work arrangements will help him feel more fully supported and perhaps even positively impact his recovery time.
Where possible, work with employee so he can be guided toward evidence-based treatment. Some treatment plans are costly and the outcomes are disappointing. Encourage the employee to connect with specialized oncology centres and look to the various community services for additional support.
Ask the employee how he wants the news of his diagnosis to be managed. Does he wish to keep it confidential? Regardless of the response, the employer needs to be mindful of privacy guidelines and the need to honour the employee's wishes.
Keep in touch. If it is comfortable for the employee, discuss arrangements to keep in touch. Determine upfront how he'd like to receive information and if he wants to connect with coworkers including frequency of contact. Cancer treatment can be physically and mentally draining. It will be important to check it and validate if the contact arrangement still holds.
Employers demonstrate the best support by determining and validating the employee's wishes. Help educate the employee about return to work options. The employee's direct leader plays an important role in the process. She should understand company policies related to privacy issues, sick time, duty to accommodate, and the importance of supporting the employee at every stage of the process.
There is much to know when it comes to dealing with cancer in the workplace. Please feel free to contact us to discuss employer resources and tools. We're here to help so that you can focus on what you do best.
Cancer is the leading cause of premature death in Canada and is responsible for almost 30 percent of deaths annually. Most cancer deaths are linked to tobacco use, obesity, diet and inactive lifestyles. Personal characteristics such as age, gender, race and a family history of cancer are attributing factors.
What is cancer? It is the result of changes in genes that control the growth and death of cancer-free cells. Normal cells grow and multiply at a certain rate. Cancer cells damage DNA and cause the normal cells to grow at a rapid rate, which leads to tumours. These abnormal masses of tissue can destroy normal cells and travel through the body causing more damage.
While studies indicate that 40 percent of Canadians will develop some form of cancer in their lifetime, research also shows that almost half of all cancers are preventable and that awareness can have significantly positive results. There is a great deal that employers can learn to support employees dealing with cancer and this topic will be explored in greater detail in Part 2.
Education and awareness are key measures to help the fight against cancer. Prevention tips include:
Employers are wise to learn ways to help employees prevent cancer as well as help those who are dealing with it. For more information about resources available to support your efforts, please contact us. We're here to help so that you can focus on what you do best.
Dave Dickinson, B.Comm, CFP, CLU, CHFC
Experienced Benefits Specialist ready to optimize your group benefits and pension plans.