07-11-19 DI Business News

Advice for managers: What to do when employees are diagnosed with cancer

Each year 14,000 employees are diagnosed with cancer. And managers are lacking the tools to help, a new study shows. A new joint campaign launched by the Danish Cancer Society and DI offers advice for HR management.

“Sometimes as a manager you find yourself in the soup. You’re the person they turn to first. And what do you do? I simply don’t always know.”

So says operations manager René Rud Mikkelsen from waste management company Urbaser A/S in Herfølge, in a video that is part of the campaign “Take care – If your employee is diagnosed with cancer”, which the Danish Cancer Society is launching today in collaboration with the Confederation of Danish Industry (DI). 

The campaign is a response to the fact that 14,000 Danes in the working age range are diagnosed with cancer - but also that every third finds that it has been challenging for their manager to properly handle their illness.

One sick person - many people impacted

Deputy Director at DI Kinga Szabo Christensen is familiar with the challenges associated with cancer at the workplace.

“When one person gets cancer, it affects many people around them. This is the case in families but also at a workplace, where the individual who is sick, colleagues and managers suddenly find themselves in a very difficult situation,” she says.

According to DI’s Deputy Director Kinga Szabo Christensen, DI receives many inquiries from member companies seeking advice on how to tackle the situation.

One piece of advice to colleagues around the country when an employee comes is this: listen. Operations Manager René Rud Mikkelsen, Urbaser A/S

A survey carried out by the Danish Cancer Society among managers with HR duties confirms that 60 per cent do not have a policy for serious illness. Over half of managers feel that they are lacking knowledge regarding psychological reactions to cancer and advice for talking about the illness.

Listen and find counselling

Operations Manager René Rud Mikkelsen from Urbaser offers this advice when an employee comes and says that he or she has cancer:

“One piece of advice to colleagues around the country when an employee comes is this: listen. And find out whether the company offers crisis counselling, because this person is in a crisis,” he says.

According to the Danish Cancer Society, estimates show that nearly 20,000 Danes in the working age range will be diagnosed with cancer in 2025. That is an increase of 6,000 compared to today.

DI has been a close partner in the development of the campaign “Take care - If your employee is diagnosed with cancer” and has, among other things, provided access to a network of 200 managers. The campaign’s themes are thereby rooted in the everyday life and concrete needs of managers, explains DI’s deputy director.

“The campaign’s six tips can help employees with cancer, their colleagues and managers. Everyone is affected when an employee becomes seriously ill. And often it isn’t the person or in the in the way you expect. So especially for managers, it is important to have your antennas out there,” says Kinga Szabo Christensen.


For managers when employees get cancer:

1. Initiate the first conversations

2. Agree on communication

3. Adjust workload

4. Find counselling options

5. Formulate a policy

6. Learn more about cancer

Stay up to date

Receive DI Business News – our weekly newsletter in English with relevant business news, political analyses, key indicators and invitations to events, courses and business-related networks.

Sign up