Family Values @ Work

Paid Leave Helps Cancer Patients and Caregivers

Paid Leave Helps Cancer Patients and Caregivers

February 2, 2018

Cancer patients need a cure – and they also need paid leave.

A new survey from the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) shows that paid leave makes a positive difference for people dealing with cancer, those who’ve survived it, and also for caregivers. This unique study analyzed a variety of factors, each of which indicated an overall positive impact on the patient or caregiver’s quality of life. Patients and survivors who had paid leave reported they were much more likely to finish treatment than those who did not. They also reported that paid leave made it easier to schedule appointments and make informed decisions about their treatment options. Without having to worry about two very important factors, their job and their income, these patients were better able to manage the side effects and symptoms stemming from treatment.

Caregivers with paid leave similarly benefited in a variety of ways. Nearly three quarters of people giving care expressed that having access to paid time made them better able to assist their loved ones during treatment and recovery when having access to paid time. On top of that, the majority shared how paid leave helped them to care for their own health during this time. This finding is critical considering how important caregivers are while cancer patients are going through treatment. Their role is not limited to physical care. Caregivers usually act as advocates for their loved ones, and are responsible for managing housekeeping chores, appointments, insurance claims, and financial tasks. However, with less than half having access to paid time, many caregivers often experience their own financial hardships and enormous stress.

Despite the value of affordable leave, only about half of cancer patients and survivors say they have access to paid medical leave. Most patients who lacked paid time reported negative impacts on their ability to afford treatment and their access to other treatment options. On the contrary, an overwhelming majority of both patients and caregivers with paid time were able to return to work with the same employer after taking leave.

Paid family and medical leave should be the standard. We should be able to exist in a space where we don’t have to worry about the security of our job or our income when battling illnesses, especially cancer. We should also exist in a space where caregivers are able to stand by their loved ones as they battle in the fight for their lives, and recover. As Marianne Bellesorte, a leader in the Family Values @ Work network, put it in an op ed in Time, “keeping your job [and your pay] during a health crisis shouldn’t depend on luck.”

By Alexis Standifer, staff at Family Values at Work and the Labor Project for Working Families.