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Cervical Cancer Week – can employees take time off for screenings?

Cervical Cancer Week, 20th to 26th January, is the ideal time for employers to highlight the importance of taking care of our physical health. You can follow and contribute to the campaign led by Jo’s Trust on social media using #SmearForSmear.

By promoting good health at work, employers can reduce absenteeism and help to motivate staff who feel invested in by their workplace. This could be the perfect time to revisit flexible working hours and arrangements so that both male and female employees feel able to find time to get screened for all types of cancer.

Cervical Cancer Week – highlight good health

Smear tests prevent 75% of cervical cancers, so it’s a big worry that many young women are putting off getting tested. HR Magazine revealed that a quarter of women would be more likely to attend cervical cancer screenings if their company was more flexible and they didn’t have to take time off to attend an appointment, according to the Cervical Cancer Trust.

With Cervical Cancer Week upon us, this is an ideal time for businesses to stimulate discussion around promoting good employee health.

Smear test screening for women

According to Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust, more than 3,200 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer every year in the UK, and nearly 900 die annually. All women aged 25 to 49 are offered cervical screening every three years, while those aged 50 to 64 are invited every five years. The test is free to attend and people are usually invited by letter to attend a screening at their local surgery. The test itself is meant to take place mid-cycle in order to get the best reading of cells.

We’re not medical staff, so please always speak to a professional – but we do know that more women than ever are missing their appointments. In fact, 1 in 4 women skip the cervical screening test, with the proportion increasing to 1 in 3 among those aged 25 to 29 and 1 in 2 in some more deprived areas.

Robert Music, chief executive of Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust, said: “Smear tests prevent 75% of cervical cancers, so it is a big worry that so many young women, those who are most at risk of the disease, are unaware of the importance of attending. It is of further concern that body worries are contributing to non-attendance.”

Supporting employees to get tested

The smear test itself takes a matter of minutes, usually. If staff have a long commute, it may not be practical to ‘nip’ to a cervical cancer screening appointment and return to work that easily.

Some women take a day’s annual leave to attend their smear tests as a result. And that’s not always practical for everyone, particularly mothers juggling annual leave alongside the long school holidays.

Employers should look to support employees and encourage them to look after their health – particularly as cancer and long-term sick leave can cost businesses greatly. In fact, the UK National Cancer Research Institute (NCRI) found that the total annual cost of all cancers to the UK economy is £15.8bn.

Staff Awareness Days

There are lots of ways to promote Cervical Cancer Week amongst your workforce. You might want to have a bake sale to raise money for Cervical Cancer charities. Or you could consider health benefits for employees like gym memberships and cycle-to-work schemes. Email staff and highlight the fact that Cervical Cancer Week has led to a review of staff policies around good health and wellbeing. Large companies may even want to hold an out of hours cervical screening clinic event for women to find out more about the test.

Ultimately, if you can open up the conversation about employee health, you can help to encourage staff to take steps to look after themselves. Flexible employers who invest in employee health stand to attract and retain professionals more readily than those with poor reputations around staff wellbeing.

If you’d like to discuss flexible working practice in more detail, please contact Ten2Two today. Meanwhile, we wish you lots of health and happiness for the year ahead.


3 min read