How to support employees with chronic illnesses

Every year in New Zealand, thousands of workers are diagnosed with serious disease

How to support employees with chronic illnesses

Ahead of HRD’s online Mental Health Summit on 26 May 2022, we chatted to Clare O’Higgins, General Manager NZ at global charity organisation Look Good Feel Better, on how they support employers with people that have cancer in their workforce.

Every year in New Zealand, 29,000 people are diagnosed with cancer – an average of 71 people a day, which is potentially a huge chunk of our workforce. Look Good Feel Better is a fundraising supported charity organisation that has been supporting cancer patients in New Zealand for 30 years.

O’Higgins gave up a corporate media career to lead Look Good Feel Better in 2013 and she is on a mission to make sure all employers know that if they are supporting people with cancer in their workplace, the free services on offer from Look Good Feel Better are something that you should have in your HR toolkit.

“Having a program like Look Good Feel Better means that as an employer you can feel safe knowing that the wellbeing of your employees with cancer is being looked after,” said Higgins. 

“One of the things that we see is people come to us so they can continue to work. They actually want to be able to handle and continue work and so they come to us for the tips, tools and techniques to be able to feel more like themselves,” said Higgins.

“HR teams have been through a lot in the last two years you’ve got a lot on your plates as people return to the office. We’re someone that can sit on the shoulder, if you ever need someone to have that feel better moment, they can simply click online, refer the person, and we do the rest.

What we’re trying to do is to let people know that you can support anyone, anytime, at any stage of their diagnosis. If HR teams know that they can offer their colleague or staff member something that is quite practical and tangible rather than just emotional support then that’s going to make that person feel better,” said O’Higgins.

Like many charities Look Good Feel Better is not government funded so they do anything and everything to connect with the community to fundraise and keep going. A big chunk of funding comes through being a Dry July beneficiary and they’ve just struck a deal with retail giant Farmers, where $1 from every lipstick purchase during July will go to Look Good Feel Better. 

On Thursday, if I can get one person in the audience to go, I can do that for someone in my workforce, then that’s going to be a good day.

Register for the HRD Workplace Mental Health Summit here.

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