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UK workers can’t cope with the financial impact of cancer

In recent years employers have put a lot of emphasis on improving the mental health and wellbeing of their employees - but this has meant that physical ailments such as cancer have taken a back seat

30 June 2017
Kimberley Dondo

According to new research from Canada Life Group Insurance, nearly three in four (72%) respondents would struggle to cope if their income fell by the average amount lost by 80% of families affected by cancer (£570).

Cancer now affects one in two people during their lifetime and the incidence rates for those aged 25-49 has risen by 20% in the last 20 years. Despite this, more than one in five (21%) employees are not aware if their employer offers any support to those who may be diagnosed with the condition.  Only 18% of employees have some form of critical illness or income protection cover for financial assistance if they were diagnosed with a serious illness such as cancer.

This means that the majority of UK workers have no contingency plan in case of illness and with the average expenditure for any UK employee being £1,000 and the £570 most families with a cancer diagnosis experience, this would mean that in less than 3 months they would struggle to afford day to day essentials. That is only if they have the average savings of £3,300 of which nearly one in five (18%) of workers don’t.

Facing the reduction in their monthly income would mean 72% would struggle to afford utility bills, 57% would struggle with the weekly trip to the supermarket and 43% would not be able to afford their mortgage or rent payments. Other respondents admitted they would struggle with TV, internet and phone costs (51%) as well as travel costs (50%).

The general thought is that if all else fails, the State benefits system would be there for them to rely on. However, the amount that those unable to work due to illness are given has been cut from £5,312 to £3,801 a year, which hardly covers the costs for UK workers who on average spend £1,000 a month.

The study found that the families which would be hit the hardest by a cancer diagnosis would be single parent households with 80% of respondents saying it would be very difficult to cope in these circumstances.

Paul Avis, marketing director at Canada Life Group Insurance, comments:

“A head in the sand approach to the financial impact of cancer is putting families’ futures at risk. Cancer accounts for nearly seven in ten critical illness claims4 and incidence rates have risen across all age groups, affecting those of working age as well as older people. As cancer survival rates also rise,5 more will undergo extended periods of treatment, likely resulting in a leave of absence from work and a reduction of income. It’s clear from our research that most families would struggle to cope with this financially, but few have protection in place to provide the support they would need.”

Instead of focusing on their health and overcoming cancer, 16% of respondents stated that they would be more worried about their finances. The financial aspect isn’t the only worry that employees have when faced with an ailment such as cancer, 45% of respondents believe they would receive no form of support from their employers and two in five (41%) would not feel comfortable discussing a cancer diagnosis with their employer.

“With the ability to meet essential areas of expenditure such as housing, utility, and food costs at risk, employers should consider the workplace benefits they can offer to prevent valued members of staff having to experience such hardship. Group income protection and critical illness policies provide vital financial support through difficult periods of illness and are relatively inexpensive to provide, and only 7% of respondents had cover such as this in place. They also come with a host of support services such as counselling and rehabilitation, helping enable a return to work if possible: a positive result for both employer and employee.”

 


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