CANCER. IT ISA DISEAE THAT IS EATING AWAY AT CANADIAN FAMILIES AND IN THE PROCESS PRESENTING CHALLENGING ISSUES FOR BOTH WORKERS AND WORKPLACES ALIKE. IT IS A DELIBITATING DISEASE. ITS PRIMARY TREATMENT RADIATION, AND OR CHEMOTHERAPY CAN CRIPLE  A PATIENT’S IMMUNE SYSTEM. SOME PEOPLE REPORTEDLY DIE FROM THE TREATMENT THAT WAS SUPPOSED TO HELP THEM SURVIVE THE DISEEASE. IN TODAY’S WORLD, MANY OF US ARE AFFECTED BY THE DISEASE IN VERY PERSONAL WAYS

MANY OF US KNOW SOMEONE WHO IS A SURVIVOR, IS SURVIVING, OR PASSED AWAY FROM CANCER. MEDICAL RESEARCH SHOWS THAT A PATICULAR TYPE OF CANCER AFFECTS EACH PERSON IN A SLIGHTLY DIFFERENT WAY. THE GOOD NEWS NOW IS THAT DOCTORS ARE INCREASINGLY ABANDONING THEIR FORMER ONE SIZE FITS ALL TREATMENT APPROACH OPTING INSTEAD FOR A MORE INDIVIDUALIZED APPROACH.

SINCE CANCER IS RESPECTOR OF NO PERSON IT AFFECTS THE YOUNG, THE OLD, THE FIT , THE UNFIT, THE OBESE, THE SKINNY, PROFESSIONALS, LABOURERS, THE EMPLOYED AND UNEMPLOYED, MANAGERS, SUPERVISORS, THE UEMPLOYED.  CANCER SIMPLY DOES NOT DISCRIMINATE BUT TOUCHES EACH CANADIAN FAMILY IN UNIQUE WAYS.

FOR ABSOLUTE SURE, CANCER IS A WORKPLACE ISSUE. QUITE APPART FROM THE OCCUPATIONAL NATURE OF SOME FORMS OF CANCER, CANCER IS DECIDEDLY A WORKPLACE ISSUE.  WHAT ARE SOME OF THE WORK, AND WORKPLACE ISSUES THAT ARISE FROM CANCER?

 

TO MOST PATIENTS THE DIAGNOSIS OF CANCER IS RECEIVED AS A SURE DEATH SENTENCE. THIS, ALTHOUGH CANCER SOCIETIES TELL US THAT TWO OUT OF EVERY THREE CANCER PATIENTS BEAT THE DISEASE.  IN THE DAYS, WEEKS, MONTHS FOLLOWING THE INITIAL DIAGNOSIS, CANCER PATIENTS OFTEN AUTOMATICALLY DISCONNECT FROM THE WORLD AROUND THEM, INCLUDING WORK.

CANCER IS THE LEADING CAUSE OF DEATH IN CANADA, RESPONSIBLE FOR 30% OF ALL DEATHS IN THE NATION. ACCORDING TO THE CANADIAN CANCER SOCIETY THE DEATH RATE FROM CANCER IS REDUCING ALTHOUGH THE PREVALENCE OF CANCER IS ON THE RISE AT THE BEGINNING OF 2009 THERE WERE 838, 724 CANADIANS LIVING WITH CANCER  ACCORDING TO THE CANADIAN CANCER SOCIETY AN ESTIMATED 186, 600 NEW CASES OF CANCER, EXCLUDING 81, 700 NON-MELANOMA AND 75, 500 DEATHS WILL OCCUR IN CANADA IN 2013. IN OTHER WORDS, EACH HOUR AN ESTIMATED 21 PEOPLE IN CANADA WILL BE DIAGNOSED WITH CANCER. MORE THAN HALF (52%) WILL BE LUNG, BREAST, COLORECTAL AND PROSTRATE CANCER. TWO (2) OUT OF EVERY FIVE CANADIANS WILL DEVELOP CANCER IN THEIR LIFETIME AND 1 OUT OF EVERY 4 WILL DIE FROM THE DISEASE

 

THE INCIDENCE OF MEN DEVELOPING CANCER IN THEIR LIFETIME IS 5 PERCENTAGE POINTS (46%) GREATER THAN FOR WOMEN (41%)  SIXTY THREE PERCENT 63% OF CANADIANS DIAGNOSED WITH CANCER WILL SURVIVE FOR AT LEAST FIVE YEARS AFTER THEIR DIAGNOSIS

STATISTICS ALSO TELL US THAT CANADA’S CANCER RATE IS ON THE RISE WITH PREVALENCE RATE NOW 1490:100, 000

 

AN AGING POPULATION IS REPORTEDLY ONE FACTOR DRIVING THE INCREASE IN CANCER PREVALENCE RATES. SO, AS CANADA’S WORKFORCE CONTINUES TO AGE, THE INCIDENCE AND PREVALENCE OF CANCER IN THE WORKPLACE SHOULD SEE A CONCOMMITTANT RISE. IT IS NOW VIRTUALLY IMPOSSIBLE FOR MANAGERS, SUPERVISORS AND ORGANIZATIONS AS A WHOLE TO EXCAPE THE IMPACT OF CANCER WITHIN THEIR WORKFORCE. MANAGERS, SUPERVISOR AND CO-WORKERS ALIKE NOW MUST FACE UP TO THE REALITY THAT THE IMPACT OF CANCER HAS INFILTRATED THE WORKPLACE AND IT IS NOW, MORE THAN EVER, A LABOUR FORCE AND WORKPLACE ISSUE.

ONE STUDY REPORTED THAT CANCER IS ASSOCIATED WITH UNEMPLOYMENT. IN THEIR META-ANALYSIS OF  26 ARTICLES DESCRIBING 36 STUDIES FROM THE UNITED STATES AND EUROPE de BOER, TASKILA AND OJAJARY (2009) REPORTED 20,366 CANCER SURVIVORS AND 157,603 HEALTHY CONTROL PARTICIPANTS. THEIR ANALYSIS SHOWED THAT THAT CANCER SURVIVORS ARE NEARLY 1.5 TIMES MORE LIKELY TO BE UNEMPLOYED THAN HEALTHY CONTROLLED PARTICIPANTS IN BOTH EUROPE AND AMERICA.

IN PRODUCTIVITY TERMS IN YEAR 2000, CANCER WAS THE FOURTH COSTLIEST DISEASE IN CANADA, ACCOUNTING FOR  $17.4 BILLION, ACCORDING TO THE CANADIAN CANCER SOCIETY. THESE COSTS $2.6 BILLION IN DIRECT HEALTH CARE COSTS WHICH INCLUDED PYSICIAN AND HOSPITAL EXPENSES, AND $14.8 BILLION IN INDIRECT COSTS FROM LOST OF PRODUCTIVITY, PREMATURE DEATHS. ACCORDING TO THE CANADIAN CANCER SOCIETY THESE COSTS ARE EXPECTED TO INCREASE INTO THE FUTURE.

ALTHOUGH MANY INDIVIDUALS WHO SURVIVE CANCER CONTINUE TO LEAD PRODUCTIVE AND REWARDING LIVES, THE CANCER EXPERIENCE AND THE IMPACT OF ITS TREATMENT PRESENT MANY PHYSICAL EMOTIONAL , AND SPIRITUAL CHALLENGES THAT CAN PERSISTS LONG AFTER THE DISEASE IS TREATED. SOME PEOPLE EXPERIENCE MENTAL HEALTH ISSUES FROM THE DRUGS TAKEN AS PART OF THE CANCER EXPERIENCE. OTHERS HAVE SERIOUS MENTAL HEALTH CHALLENGES.

IN WORKPLACES ALL ACROSS CANADA, ORGANIZATIONS WILL NEED TO GRAPPLE WITH THE HOW TO DEAL WITH THE PSCHO SCOIAL EFFECTS OF CANCER ON EMPLOYEES WORK PERFORMANCE.  IT IS NO SECRET THAT THE CANCER EXPERIENCE HAS OR CAN HAVE A NEGATIVE LABOUR FORCE EFFECT.  PERSONS BEING TREATED FOR CANCER OFTEN MUST EXISTS THE LABOUR FORCE. BUT THERE ARE PLENTY OF CASES IN WHICH PERSON BEING TREATED FOR CANCER RETURN TO WORK DURING THE TREATMENT PROCESS SIMPLY BECAUSE OF FINANCIAL NECESSITY.

IN AN OCTOBER 2013 ARTICLE CBC NOTED THAT THE CANADIAN LIFE AND HEALTH INSURANCE ASSOCIATION ESTIMATES THAT 67 PER CENT OF THE POPULATION HAVE EXTENDED HEALTH CARE BENEFITS WHICH INCLUDES NOT-FOR-PROFIT HEALTH INSURANCE BENEFIT PROVIDERS. IN TODAYS MARKETPLACE, MANY EMPLOYERS ADOPT VARIOUS STRATEGIES TO AVOID PROVIDING BENEFITS TO CERTAIN CLASSES OF EMPLOYEES. THOUGH A RECENT BUSINESS WEEK ARTICLE REPORTED THAT A POLL FROM THE ASSOCIATED PRESS-NORDC CENTRE FOR PUBLIC AFFAIRS RESEARCH FOUND THAT “COMPANIES THAT OFFER HEALTH INSURANCE SEE IT AS A KEY TOOL TO ATTRACT WORKERS AND KEEP THEM ON THE JOB” EVEN AS COSTS ARE ON THE RISE, IT IS QUITE COMMON, EVEN IN GOVERNMENT, FOR EMPLOYERS NOT TO OFFER BENEFITS TO CERTAIN CLASSES OF EMPLOYEES SUCH AS CONTRACT WORKERS, ETC.  IN FACT, EVEN IN PUBLIC SECTOR ORGANIZATIONS, UNIONS HAVE HAD TO FIGHT HARD TO PREVENT THE EMPLOYER FROM SIMPLY EXTENDING THE CONTRACT OF CONTRACT WORKERS INDEFINITELY.

EMPLOYEES WITH A BENEFIT PACKAGE ARE DECIDEDLY IN A BETTER POSITION THAN THOSE WHO ARE NOT WHEN IT COMES TO DEALING WITH THE CANCER JOURNER.  THOSE WITH BENEFITS HAVE SOME FORM OF INCOME REPLACEMENT, WHILE THOSE WHO DO NOT HAVE NONE, OTHER THAN SICK BENEFITS PAID BY EI, OR ODSP, ETC. FACED WITH THE PROSPECT OF COLLECTING WELFARE AT THE END OR IN THE MIDST OF THE CANCER JOURNEY.  IN THE 2010 STUDY BREAST CANCER: ECONONIC IMPACT AND LABOUR FORCE RE-ENTRY THE AUTHORS FOUND THAT 80% OF RESPONDENTS EXPERIENCED A FINANCIAL IMPACT. EMPLOYMENT INSURANCE SICKNESS BENEFITS LAST FIFTEEN WEEKS; THERE WAS A GAP OF 23 WEEKS DURING TREATMENT WITHOUT EI COVERAGE; 44% OF RESPONDENTSUSED SAVINGS; 27% TOOK ON DEBTS AND 20% OF RESPONDENTS RETURNED TO WORK BEFORE THEY WERE READY BECAUSE OF FINANCIAL PRESSURES; THOSE WHO HAD CHEMOTHERAPY HAD GREATER LOSS OF HOUSEHOLD INCOME AND WERE 49% MORE LIKELY TO TAKE MORE THAN 16 WEEKS OFF WORK.

CANCER IS A WORKPLACE ISSUE IN OTHER RESPECTS. TAKE CORECTAL CANCER AS A PROXY.  MANY WOMEN WHO SURVIVE CORECTAL CANCER LIVE WITH A CHOLOSTOMY.  UPON RE-ENTRY TO THE WORKPLACE THERE ARE PLENTY OF ISSUES FOR SUCH A PERSON.  THE CLANLINESS OF WASHROOMS BECOMES A HUGE ISSUE.  SURVIVORS OF COLORECTAL CANCER OFTEN LOSE THE ABILITY TO CONTROL THE PASSAGE OF GAS WHICH IS A HUGE EMBARASSMENT. MANY WOMEN ARE TERRIFIED RETURNING TO THE WORKPLACE AFTER COLORETAL CANCER CULMINATING IN THE INSERTION OF A COLOSTOMY.

AT THE LEVEL OF EMPLOYEE RELATIONS WORKPLACE RE-ENTRY OF A CANCER SURVIVOR CREATES A CERTAIN LEVEL OF TREPIDATION. ONE TENDENCY AMONG CO-WORKERS IS TO SHOW THEIR EMPATHY CONTNUOUSLY FOR A CANCER SURVIVOR WHO RETURNS TO THE OWRKPLACE.  TO THE CANCER SURVIVOR THE CONTINUOUS FOCUS AND REMINDER OF THE CANCER JOURNEY BY CO-WORKERS TEND TO SUGGESTS TO THE SURVIOVOR THAT HER.HIS IDENTITY IS NOW THAT OF A VICTIM.  THE INNOCUOUS ANSWER: “HOW ARE YOU FELLING TODAY?”  ARE YOU FEELING WELL? THE CONSTANT ATTENTION AND FOCUS ON THE CANCER JOURNEY BY CO-WORKERS LEAVES THE SURVIVOR IN THE MODE OF A VICTIM, EVEN WHEN SHE OR HE IS TRYING HARD TO MOVE PAST THAT IDENTITY.

THE PURPOSE OF THIS SHORT PAPER IS NOT TO PRESENT ALL OF THE LABOUR FOR WORKPLACE EFFECTS OF CANCER. INSTEAD, IT IS SIMPLY TO RAISE AWARENESS OF SOME OF THE ISSUES.  AGE, EDUCATION, LIFESTYLE, AND A HOST OF OTHER CRITERIA FACTOR INTO INDIVIDUAL EXPERIENCES IN THE WORKPLACE. SOME OF THESE SAME FACTORS AFFECT THE EXTENT TO WHICH THERE IS WAGE LOSS.

HOW DOES AN HR DEPARTMENT PLAN AN EFFECTIVE RETURN TO WORK PROGRAM FOR SURVIVORS OF CANCER? WHAT OUGHT TO BE THE ELEMENTS OF SUCH A PROGRAM?

THE SUCCESS OF ANY RETURN TO WORK PROGRAM FOR CANCER PATIENTS AFTER TREATMENAT IS A FUNCTION OF THE EMPLOYER’S ATTITUDE, PLAN, AND INITIATIVE.  ONE MICHIGHAN STUDY CONCLUDED THAT A “HIGH PERCENT OF EMPLOYED BREAST CANCER PATIENTS RETURNED TO WORK AFTER TREATMENT AND WORKPLACE ACCOMODATION PLAYED AN IMPORTANT ROLE IN THEIR RETURN. IN ADDITION PERCEIVED EMPLOYER DISCRIMINATION BECAUSE OF CANCER WAS NEGATIVELY ASSOCIATED WITH RETURN TO WORK FOR BREAST CANCER SURVIVORS. EMPLOYERS SEEM TO HAVE A PIVOTAL ROLE IN BREAST CANCER PATIENTS’ SUCCESSFUL RETURN TO WORK.

GIVEN THAT THE EFFECTS OF CANCER IS DIFFERENT FOR DIFFERENT PEOPLE, A RETURN TO WORK PLAN OUGHT TO TAKE ON A VERY INDIVIDUALISTIC APPROACH. THOUGH MANY HR DEPARTMENT APPROACH RETURN TO WORK FROM A COOKIE CUTTER APPROACH, A COMPREHENSIVE AND DETAILED RETURN TO WORK PLAN OUGHT TO BE AS INDIVIDUALISTIC AS POSSIBLE, ADDRESSING THE EMPLOYEE-RELATIONS DIMENSIONS. SOME RETURN A NEED MAY ALSO ARISE IN SOME RTURN TO WORK PLAN TO ASSESS ELEMENTS OF THE PHYSICAL ENVIRONMENT TO DETERMINE WHAT,, IF ANYTHING, MUST CHANGE.