Reframe Cancer reveals cancer-related absence could cost UK economy £1.6bn in 2024

According to the latest research commissioned by Reframe Cancer, cancer-related absence could cost UK businesses £1.6bn in 2024 alone.

Related topics:  Reframe Cancer,  Employee Benefits
Tabitha Lambie | Editor, Protection Reporter
9th May 2024
Cancer in the Workplace
"Stigmatisation of cancer is very real, and many employees feel as though they have to hide their cancer diagnosis, concerns and even symptoms, in 2024 this feels so wrong."
- Mark Stephenson, CEO of Reframe Cancer

Of those surveyed (500) as part of Reframe Cancer’s ‘The Employee Experience Report: Living & Working with Cancer’, the average length of absence was 15 weeks – approximately 75 working days based on full-time employment. With 160k people of working age forecast to receive a cancer diagnosis each year (on an average salary of £34,963), cancer-related absence could result in a loss of £1.6bn to the UK economy.

In addition to expected absence for treatment and recovery, employees living with cancer will often need to take time off during earlier stages – often before a formal diagnosis is made. On average, patients take 12 days off for pre-diagnosis worries & symptoms, 16 days for diagnosis & testing, 24 days for treatment, and 23 days for recovery.  

Yet only 45% of individuals tell their employer about seeking a diagnosis, only informing them after a diagnosis has been made. Concerningly, 11% wait until they’re undergoing treatment or after finishing treatment before informing their employer. 18% tell them whilst undergoing tests.

Reframe Cancer also found that 48% felt pressured to keep working during their cancer journey, which could explain the lack of transparency from employees before receiving a formal cancer diagnosis. Notably, there are currently around 700k people in work who are caring for someone with cancer - this group will also be taking time off to support loved ones, further impacting absence.

During a cancer journey, Reframe Cancer believes employee benefits can become hugely important, but its recent findings suggest there is still a way to go to bridge the gap between what is offered and what is appreciated. More than three quarters (77%) of employees with cancer don’t think the benefits offered to them meet all their needs. Of that percentage, 58% earned less than £30k annually, 54% had worked with their current employer for 4-10 years, and 58% were male.

Reframe Cancer believes these recent findings also reflect a level of inequality in the provision of private healthcare. 62% of respondents said they receive treatment exclusively through the NHS while 30% receive a combination of both NHS and private care. Only 6% of employees receive treatment exclusively through private healthcare.

Of those receiving treatment, 29% of female employees were receiving private medical treatment compared to 71% of men. Reframe Cancer believes this male bias is further evident when considering access to both private and NHS options, with 70% again being male.

Reframe Cancer’s findings show correlations between seniority and access to private healthcare. Only 6% of employees in junior positions said they accessed private healthcare for their cancer treatment compared to 64% of C-suite executives. This was followed by senior management (52%), middle management (30%), and supervisors (29%).

“Our extensive research has highlighted that things are much worse for employees working with cancer than we feared. They are taking 15 weeks off work on average (many will also take more than this) whilst 92% are also reliant on the NHS, and there is virtually no support being put in place for almost all these people,” explained Mark Stephenson, CEO of Reframe Cancer.

Mark was concerned at the gender inequality revealed, with 71% of men getting private medical treatment compared to just 29% of women. “As well as this there is an additional trend emerging whereby lower earners are the most dissatisfied with their employee benefits for cancer. The grade of an employee should not have an impact on the support they receive when dealing with cancer,” he said.

“This research underlines the important role Private Medical Insurance (PMI) can play. It can help relieve some of the pressure on the NHS and is becoming an increasingly sought after benefit. It’s concerning that some employees feel under-supported in their cancer journey, and its important advisers understand the importance of comprehensive cancer cover to an employee-benefits package," added Brian Walters, Managing Director at Regency Health.

More like this
Latest from Financial Reporter
Latest from Property Reporter
to our newsletter

Join a community of over 30,000 intermediaries and keep up-to-date with industry news and upcoming events via our newsletter.