New Guide Gives Employers Tools To Support Employees With Cancer

Friday, December 6, 2013

A new guide developed by The National Business Group on Health and the National Comprehensive Cancer Network offers employers an online and interactive toolkit to help address the growing impact of cancer in the workplace.

“There are more cancer survivors in the workplace than ever before,” said Robert (Jake) Jacob, director of Health and Productivity at Unum, and a member of the advisory committee for this initiative. “There is a growing need for employers and benefit managers to have a comprehensive approach in supporting employees as they deal with cancer treatment and recovery, and this guide provides that.”

An Employer’s Guide to Cancer Treatment and Prevention is the first of its kind in the industry.

Cancer is a leading cause of disability claims for Unum each year. As a member of Unum’s Health and Productivity team, Mr. Jacob works closely with employers whose employees return to work after cancer treatment.

“Unum has done extensive research on the impact of cancer survivorship on employers,” said Mr. Jacob. “We have the knowledge and expertise to help employers support their workers through diagnosis and treatment, and help those employees return successfully to the workplace.”

Mr. Jacob’s recommendations for the guide focused on three key initiatives:

  • Return-to-work best practices – Recovery and return to work play a particularly significant role for cancer patients. In fact, Mr. Jacob says, most people who have been diagnosed with cancer are very motivated to get back to work because it helps create a sense of control at a time when people often feel understandably overwhelmed.   A successful return-to-work strategy requires a collaborative approach among short term disability case managers, an employee’s supervisor and HR  representatives. This ensures the employee is getting the support they need to resume work in a safe and productive manner.
  •  Expertise of disability benefit specialists, and clinical and vocational resources – Cancer patients experience a wide range of side effects from treatment, including fatigue and cognitive issues that are the result of “chemo-brain.” Short term disability case managers should have the training needed to understand the employee’s overall health condition in order to provide the necessary support and accommodations the employee may need as they transition back to work. 
  • Short term disability and employee assistance program coordination – Coordination with employee assistance programs is critical to ensure effective management of employees on disability leave.

“For employers, the financial, emotional and productivity burden of cancer in the workplace is high,” said Helen Darling, president and CEO of the National Business Group on Health. “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. That’s one of the main reasons we launched this project with NCCN – to help employers meet this growing challenge.”

Mr. Jacob was one of 35 members of the advisory committee for this effort. Other participants included benefit managers, clinical cancer experts, medical directors, health plan and pharmaceutical representatives, health care consultants, disability managers, and EAP and health improvement professionals.

Although the project is wrapping up and the advisory committee is formally ending, committee members will continue to support the National Business Group on Health in promoting the guide.  There are also plans to enhance the guide to include strategies for managed care organizations, pharmacy benefit managers and consultants.


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