By Gideon Spanier
Publicis Groupe has launched the Working With Cancer pledge, a global initiative to support employees who have been diagnosed with cancer, and more than 30 of the world’s biggest companies have already signed up.
Arthur Sadoun, chief executive of Publicis Groupe, is leading the cross-industry initiative “to erase the stigma of cancer in the workplace”, after going public last year about his own diagnosis during his treatment for HPV-related cancer.
The Publicis Foundation, which is backed by the French-owned agency group, has worked with leading cancer organisations and charities, including the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, Macmillan Cancer Support, Working With Cancer and the Gustave Roussy Institute, to devise the pledge.
Sadoun announced the launch at the World Economic Forum in Davos on Tuesday when he highlighted the fact that one in two people will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime, according to medical experts.
Yet research shows 50% of people with cancer are “afraid to tell their employer about their diagnosis” — despite 92% feeling that “support at work positively impacts their health”.
Sadoun is urging companies to sign up to the Working With Cancer pledge, which is a “commitment to building the most open, supportive and recovery-forward work cultures for their employees”.
Publicis Groupe’s own pledge includes “providing cancer patients with full job security for at least one year, and bringing the necessary career support not only for them, but also for caregivers in our organisation”.
More than 30 companies have signed up to the pledge at launch and are outlining their commitments on the Working With Cancer Pledge website.
The companies include Abbvie, Adobe, AXA, Bank of America, BNP Paribas, BT, Carrefour, Citi, Disney, EE, Google, Haleon, Haymarket, L’Oréal, Lloyds Banking Group, LVMH, Marriott, McDonald’s, Meta, Mondelez, Microsoft, MSD, Nestlé, Orange, Omnicom, Pepsico, Reckitt, Renault Group, Sanofi, Toyota, Unilever, Verizon and Walmart.
In the case of Publicis Groupe, Sadoun told Campaign UK that a job guarantee for 12 months will be especially important in the United States and India, the company’s two biggest markets, because workers have only limited job protection rights by law in those countries.
Publicis Groupe’s pledge extends to employees with other chronic diseases, not just cancer, Sadoun added.
“It is a tough reality, but whether directly or indirectly, every one of us will have to confront cancer in our lives and in our workplaces. Companies have a key role to play in that,” he said.
“Working with Cancer is an increasingly important initiative, on a front that many businesses are already invested in. By making their existing efforts more accessible and visible, together we can reduce the anxiety and stigma of cancer in the workplace and positively impact our people’s health.
“Through a truly collaborative approach, a light lift from everyone becomes deep and lasting impact for cancer patients at work.”
Sadoun said he had felt strongly that it was important to be “transparent” about his own cancer diagnosis, despite the fact that advertising is “an industry that is very competitive” and going public was potentially “a big sign of vulnerability” for him as CEO.
Thousands of people who have dealt with cancer got in touch with him as a result of his admission and it was “eye-opening” because many of them said they had been “scared” to tell their employer about their health problems, according to Sadoun.
He hopes the pledge will change this “perception gap” between what an employee with cancer expects from their company or HR department and what it will offer in terms of support.
Publicis Groupe is launching an ad campaign, which includes a film (below), called “Work/Life” that shows what people with cancer “go through when they hide their condition from their colleagues” — such as taking vacation days to get treatment.
Haya Waseem from production company Object & Animal directed the film, working with a team led by Andy Bird, founding partner and chief creative officer of Le Truc, the New York-based Publicis agency.
Ads will also run across other media channels such as outdoor and digital, with an image of a person’s face split in two and the message: “Half of us will be diagnosed with cancer in our lifetime. All of us should support people with cancer in the workplace.”
Media owners are donating about $100m of advertising space to support the Working With Cancer pledge. Campaign UK and its parent company, Haymarket, are among those donating ad space.
Publicis Groupe is planning to build momentum with further activity, including a “mass media” campaign around World Cancer Day on 4 February.
“Abolish fear and insecurity in the workplace”
Claire Rowney, executive director of fundraising, marketing and innovation at Macmillan Cancer Support, said: “Cancer can impact a person’s life in a variety of ways and we know that too many people living with cancer face a huge amount of stress, worrying about how their diagnosis could impact their work.
“The Working with Cancer pledge is a major step forward, calling for commitment and raising vital awareness among employers of the role they have to play in ensuring the millions of people with cancer across the world get the essential support they need at work, at a time when they need it most.”
Nicola Mendelsohn, vice-president of the global business group at Meta, who has follicular lymphoma, an incurable form of blood cancer, is helping Sadoun to raise awareness for the pledge at Davos this week.
“Meta whole-heartedly believes in the importance of supporting and standing by people when they face challenges in their personal lives, both health-related or otherwise,” Mendelsohn said:
“I faced my own challenges when I was diagnosed with follicular lymphoma in 2016. Meta allowed me the flexibility to receive the treatment and rest that I needed, but also the support to continue when I was able to do the work that I love. This extends to all Meta employees around the world, not just those facing cancer diagnoses but to anyone who is facing a personal health challenge.
“And for this reason, I and Meta are proud to support the Working With Cancer initiative and deeply believe in what it stands for: that companies must pro-actively work to abolish fear and insecurity for cancer sufferers in the workplace.”
Kevin Costello, chief executive at Haymarket Media Group, said: “At Haymarket, we are a family business committed to fostering an inclusive environment where every colleague feels valued, supported and able to bring their whole selves to work.
“Our success depends on the brilliance of our people, and their health and wellbeing is of paramount importance. With half of us likely to receive a cancer diagnosis during our lifetime, we need to talk about it openly and its inevitable impact in the workplace.
“On behalf of Haymarket, we are proud to back the Working with Cancer pledge. Thank you to Publicis Groupe for driving this vital initiative.”
Companies of all sizes are encouraged to sign up to the Working With Cancer pledge. To find out more, visit: www.workingwithcancerpledge.com/
Publicis Groupe’s pledge
The company has told staff: “We will secure the job and salary of any Publicis Groupe employees suffering from cancer for at least one year, so they can stay focused on their health treatment as the priority.
“All Publicis Groupe employees will be individually accompanied when they return to work, depending on their health recovery, physical and mental capacities, and willingness to keep the same job or to do something different.
“All affected Publicis Groupe employees will have access to an internal community of volunteers (peers), properly trained to provide more adequate support, so that our employees don’t feel alone at a challenging time.
“All Publicis Groupe employees in a caregiver role for a patient in their immediate family will receive custom support to provide them with the relevant flexibility and time arrangements to maintain their energy at work and as a caregiver.”