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J Occup Rehabil. 2014 Sep;24(3):399-409. doi: 10.1007/s10926-013-9465-6.

Return to work following breast cancer treatment: the employers' side.

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  • 1Department of Public Health and Primary Care, Occupational, Environmental and Insurance Medicine, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Kapucijnenvoer 35/5, 3000, Leuven, Belgium,



Research on employers' experiences with return to work (RTW) of employees with breast cancer is lacking. Employers seem to be the key people to create good working conditions. Our aim is to explore how Belgian employers experience their role and responsibility in RTW of employees with breast cancer.


Using a qualitative design (Grounded Theory) 17 employers from the public (7), private (5) and non-profit (5) sector, directly involved in the RTW process, were interviewed. The analysis was based on the Qualitative Analysis Guide of Leuven (QUAGOL) with constant data comparison and interactive team dialogue as important guiding characteristics.


RTW of employees with breast cancer is experienced by employers as an intangible process that is difficult to manage. This was expressed in (1) concern, referring to the employer's personal and emotional involvement, (2) uncertainty about the course of illness and the guidance needed by the employee and (3) specific dilemmas in the RTW process (when does one infringe on employee privacy; employee vs. organization interest; employers' personal vs. professional role). The degree to which this was experienced related to variety in organizational, employer, and employee factors.


The findings of this study confirm the importance of the employer's involvement in RTW of employees with breast cancer and contribute to a better understanding of its complexity. The employers did their best to grasp the intangibility of the RTW process. Further research is needed to refine these findings and to discover the specific needs of employers regarding supporting RTW of breast cancer patients.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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