More physically demanding jobs typically have higher rates of disability for cancer survivors than jobs which are mostly sedentary in nature.10 It is not surprising that a longer period of time off work is often needed to recover sufficiently to cope with the physical tasks of manual labour, in comparison to those in a sedentary role.
In contrast, claimants in roles that require high executive functioning and/or with a high level of responsibility at work, may also require a longer period of recovery to manage the cognitive challenges following intensive treatment.
Therefore, a detailed understanding of the insured’s occupation, role, and duties is an important part of every cancer survivor’s claim assessment.
The availability of support
It is a generally accepted notion that those who have a good support system while undergoing a life-changing situation usually fare better in recovery, and this should be considered as a potential factor that could impact claim duration.
Support at work
Legally, employers are duty bound to make reasonable adjustments to support their employees to return to work. However, these tend to be available only to employed persons, and “reasonable” is not well defined. Managers are not always clear how or what to offer in terms of support and may not have the resources to do so. Employees may also not know what are considered reasonable requests for accommodation.11
These conversations are impacted by existing workplace relationships. A supportive occupational health resource, human resources team and manager make a successful return to work much more likely. At present, the involvement of these resources is more frequently seen in group income protection than in the individual income protection space.
For those who are self-employed, navigating their own reasonable accommodations and graded return to work can feel like a daunting prospect. In addition, it may be that remaining on an income protection benefit can appear more financially beneficial to the claimant than navigating their own business demands or venturing into the open job market.
There are limited resources available in the public space to actively support cancer survivors to return to work. This largely depends on the area in which one lives, the scope and skills of the community teams, and the relevant waiting lists.
A paper completed by Gail Eva showed that cancer survivors often felt unsure about the role of health professionals and did not ask for advice with respect to work-related difficulties. In turn, health professionals volunteered little advice on work-related problems, as they often do not feel equipped to offer support in this area.12
In the UK, the currently available public resources offer cancer survivors a recovery package which focuses on the ability to live well with and beyond cancer, and addresses physical, mental, financial, and work aspects. For many people, this is a great way to ensure that the right information is available at the right time. We know, however, that it assumes an individual’s ability to self-manage their recovery, which is no easy feat.
The general conclusion of the studies on this topic show that those who are supported by a multi-disciplinary team approach which addresses physical, psycho-educational and vocational components leads to more people returning to work compared to if they received the usual cancer care.13 This is a key consideration for insurers when considering the type of rehabilitation and wellbeing support that can and should be offered to those who are on an income protection benefit due to the impact of cancer on their ability to work.