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Creative benefits help employees with cancer stay on the job

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Employee Benefits Program,HR Management,Human Resources

Employees living with cancer increasingly are staying on the job, thanks to benefits like flexibility and intermittent, short-term disability insurance.

At KPMG, employees undergoing chemotherapy work with their managers and HR to craft a workable schedule using the organization’s flex-time options, which it offers to any employee. An employee with low stamina, for instance, might temporarily work half days, while someone who becomes sick during chemo treatment might take a week off each month.

Covering extra expenses

To supplement the part-time income from a reduced workweek, employees rely on the organization’s short-term disability insurance. In addition, the firm offers a personal cancer indemnity plan. That plan, which employees must enroll in while they’re healthy, pays a stipend for hospital stays, radiation treatments or cancer screenings. The plan also helps defray transportation costs, family hotel expenses or deductibles that health insurance doesn’t cover.

KPMG employees may consult with an employee assistance program (EAP) counselor, and so can their managers, who might need advice about how to deal with colleagues when a teammate is diagnosed with cancer.

Steps to take

Pharmaceutical maker AstraZeneca lets employees with cancer craft flexible schedules or work from home on days when they’re not up to spending eight hours in the office. The company was one of six organizations to earn the CEO Roundtable on Cancer’s Gold Standard accreditation in 2006.

Cancer patient and AstraZeneca employee Wendy Peticone used both short-term and long-term disability leave, vacation days and sick time to “manage how I was getting paid … so that way, when one thing ran out, I could go to the next thing.”

Advice: Cancer is a leading cause of death among people ages 25 to 65, the largest segment of corporate employees. That means it affects employees at all organizations. To help your employees continue to work productively while managing their disease:

  • Custom-build a schedule for each individual. Cancer affects each person differently, and each employee’s comfort level and financial situation are different.
  • Provide information about the disease and treatment options on your intranet, through your EAP or your resource and referral program. Ask your insurance provider for content.
  • Offer seminars on coping with cancer for the co-workers of sick employees.
  • Make it easy for employees with cancer—who often follow strict diet and exercise regimens during treatments—to stay on their programs during their eight hours on the job. Offer healthy food and drinks in your cafeteria and vending machines, and encourage break-time exercise.
  • Tap into the passion that some employees develop while dealing with their own cancer. Peticone wrote a book, Hanging Out with Lab Coats, about her experience. She now speaks about the patient’s perspective at employee gatherings, community forums and to Astra-Zeneca’s clients. She also offers her two cents to her employer when it’s developing new cancer drugs. 

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