Return to Work after Cancer

04.02.2017

For World Cancer Day (February 4th 2017) the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health have published a new part of their Occupational Health Toolkit on Return to Work after Cancer

This was based on the report, 'Return to work after cancer: occupational safety and health considerations', commissioned by IOSH and carried out by the Institute of Occupational Medicine (IOM), collaborating with Loughborough University and Affinity Health at Work.  The report highlights the specific health and safety risks brought about by people with cancer who continue working or return after an absence.

The approach taken by the research team was a systematic review of recent research to integrate the existing evidence on the occupational safety and health aspects of return to work after cancer.  This was followed by organisational based case studies involving structured interviews with individuals and others within the organisation involved in the return to work process. 

The IOM identified that the barriers affecting people staying in work or returning successfully include the job role itself, such as physical and psychological factors, and symptoms of the illness and treatment, like fatigue. The report says that producing a tailored plan and individual risk assessment, including flexible working and carefully-managed workloads, can help with managing the process. 

With that in mind, the report recommends risk assessments cover the psychological demands of the work, the risks of infection, access requirements like parking facilities and breaks in the working day among many other factors.

It features a number of recommendations aimed at making the transition back as smooth as possible for both staff and their employers.

Kate Field, Head of Information and Intelligence at IOSH, said: “It is important that organisations – human resources, line managers and of course, occupational safety and health practitioners – take these issues into account when supporting those diagnosed with cancer. The research also adds weight to the evidence that organisations need good rehabilitation processes in place to provide effective support and ensure a successful return to work which includes regular communication and flexible working. This is true whatever the type of ill-health, physical or mental.”

The toolkit has been made available on the IOSH website: www.iosh.co.uk/Books-and-resources/Our-OH-toolkit

Findings from the report:

  • Work is good for people’s health and keeping people in work is good for business. This includes those with cancer.

  • Before this research, there was no evidence of specific health and safety issues and effective approaches to risk assessment and risk management to support those undergoing treatment or returning to work after cancer. This research addresses this gap.

  • The findings demonstrate that a person with cancer is an individual and therefore his/her return to work needs an individualised approach.

  • Positive rehabilitation approaches and policies are the most effective way to support people to return to work successfully.

  • Specific health and safety issues need to be considered as part of the return to work process.

 

For further information please contact Dr Joanne Crawford, Tel 0131 449 8037, email joanne.crawford@iom-world.org

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