Cancer in the workplace: The role of HR Managers as employee wellness champions By Lathasha Subban & Chrisna Minnaar

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If you are in HR, ask yourself this: Are there employees in the company that has been affected by cancer? There is a high probability that either an employee or an employee’s family member has been affected by cancer. “A recent study published by medical journal Lancet predicts that South Africa could see an increase of 78% in the number of cancer cases by 2030. From a global perspective, a 75% increase is expected, increasing the total incidence of all new cancer-cases from 12.7 million in 2008 to 22.2 million by 2030.”[1]

The next question you should ask yourself is: Should I be doing something about it? The answer should be YES!

Organisations focus on wellness, and depend on HR to deliver on employee well-being programmes and initiatives. This is part of the organisation success and healthy employees. But sometimes the employees of the organisation, especially those who suffer from severe illnesses like cancer need more support from their organisations.

According to research done by Macmillan[1] about 750 000 people, of the 2 million currently diagnosed with cancer, are of legal working age. This makes the “cancer” issue a business sensitive one. It is important as an HR professional to be educated on this topic and how this leads to excessive cost for the organisation. You should also understand the connection between employee health, productivity and absenteeism.

On the 11th of July 2017, SABPP was honoured to be a part of a Cancer training session which was presented by David Salomon and Addi Lang, the Founder and Director of FOREVER CHANGED GLOBAL AWARENESS CAMPAIGN. This campaign addresses cancer in the workplace and society at large.

Addi’s campaign, FOREVER CHANGED, clearly articulated about:

  • How important early detection is;
  • Natural Cancer Preventions;
  • How important it is to ask questions after diagnoses;
  • Considering ALL treatment options; and
  • Brings a message of hope to continue with.

In this training session Addi spoke about her personal experience with cancer, what she has learned in this time, her reflection of her life after being diagnosed and how she decided to use this knowledge as a foundation to build her campaign on.

This session included a 50 minute documentary of cancer “warriors”, and the story of their care takers , who told us more about life after diagnoses and how they have dealt with this life changing news.   David Salomon, Addi’s partner and co-founder of the FOREVER CHANGED GLOBAL AWARENESS campaign, explained the importance of nutrition and the decisions we make about our diets that can prevent cancer.

From L-R: Lathasha Subban (Head: Knowledge & Innovation, SABPP); David Salomon (Facilitator: Forever Changed); Addi Lang (Director: Forever Changed); Xolani Mawande (COO: SABPP); Marius Meyer (CEO: SABPP)

They also explained the importance of taking self responsibility for your body and what you consume, and to rather be proactive in the prevention of cancer than only treating it after you’ve been diagnosed.

The SABPP supports David, Addi and the FOREVER CHANGED campaign because we believe that as HR professionals, we should be concerned about our employees overall well-being, including their health. Cancer is one of the most common illnesses in South Africa and it’s effects on South African organisations cannot be ignored.

Says Marius Meyer, CEO of SABPP:  “We fully support the Forever Changed Campaign in raising awareness and educating people about the imperative of dealing with cancer in a more holistic and integrated manner.  People have options, and they need to be informed of all the options available to them. In particular, I invite HR and Wellness Managers to become involved in this initiative. For SABPP this initiative is a great opportunity for organisations in support of their efforts to apply the national HR standard on employee wellness.  In fact, this issue is so important, it is a matter of life and death.”

As the professional body responsible for HR professional practice, SABPP wants to emphasise, to all HR professionals, that being aware of this illness is not enough. As an HR professional you have to really understand this illness and what it does to your employee physically as well as emotionally. You should also be aware of ways to prevent as well as ways to  alleviate the impact of cancer and then educate your employees on this.

SABPP wishes Addi and David all the best on their journey to create cancer awareness and encourages all HR wellness professionals to implement this type of awareness within their organisations. You could be saving a life….or many, and show your employees that you care about them and their families.

HR Managers interested in joining the campaign to support their staff and family members,  can contact the SABPP on  The SABPP Cancer in the Workplace Programme in partnership with the Foreverchanged Campaign will be formally launched on 22 August in Johannesburg.


Lathasha Subban is Head of Knowledge & Innovation at SABPP and Chrisna Minnaar is an HR student at the University of Pretoria.