Aim: To synthesise results from a series of qualitative studies conducted in South Australia on RTW and cancer in order to inform recommendations to facilitate quality RTW outcomes for cancer survivors.
Methods: Over the past 4 years, our group has conducted a series of studies investigating issues pertaining to RTW and cancer. Participants have comprised patients/survivors, employers and employee assistance providers, oncologists, nurses, allied health professionals, and most recently – general practitioners.
Results: Survivors consistently identify the impact of cancer and its treatment of their ability to work yet there are no clear guidelines for the assessment of work ability, or mechanisms to communicate work capacity to employers. A lack of policy is evident in Australian organisations to specifically deal with managing issues of disclosure versus open communication about cancer. Discrimination and stigma about cancer requires ongoing education in workplaces, as well as in the wider community. General practitioners appear to be central to managing the assessment or work ability despite the lack of appropriate objective tools to assess work capacity across important domains including, physical, cognitive, emotional or psychosocial capacity. Centrelink policies impede the choices of survivors to gradually RTW, and reduce options provided to GP’s to support patients RTW. Often the only option for individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds (and their GP’s) is to sign off on documentation to transfer from a short term sickness benefit to a long term disability benefit. For other survivors, financial situations force an early RTW which poses risks to injury to themselves as well as others in their workplace.
Conclusions: This presentation will focus on identifying and addressing the gaps that prevent Australian cancer survivors from experiencing quality RTW outcomes. We envisage that the recommendations may serve to underpin efforts of consumer advocacy groups to improve opportunities for quality RTW for cancer survivors.