Maximising your income when you are affected by cancer
As part of your financial planning you should consider all of the things you can do to maximise your income.
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Pay from work is a main source of income for many people. However, if you’re living with cancer, you may need time off work to attend appointments, receive and recover from treatment, cope with emotional stress and deal with side effects, such as tiredness. Carers may need time off work too. Your income may drop as a result, but everyone has certain rights at work, so your earnings won’t necessarily stop completely.
If you stop working or your earnings drop, this may lead to a situation where you pay too much tax and may be able to claim a refund (tax rebate). See our information about tax affairs when you're affected by cancer for more information.
If you’re an employee and off work sick, you can usually get Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) for up to 28 weeks. If you earn an average of £107 a week (around £464 a month) or more in 2013-14, your employer must, by law, give you Statutory Sick Pay. You can get Statutory Sick Pay after you’ve been sick for four days in a row, including weekends, bank holidays and days you don’t normally work.
Statutory Sick Pay is only paid for the days that you would normally work for your employer under your employment contract. After 28 weeks of Statutory Sick Pay (or before then if you can’t get Statutory Sick Pay because you haven’t earned enough), you may be able to claim Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) or, from October 2013, Universal Credit. Visit gov.uk for more information or nidirect.gov.uk if you live in Northern Ireland.
Many employers run their own sick pay scheme with more generous payments and terms than the statutory minimum. Check your employment contract or speak to your human resources (HR) department to see whether your employer has a scheme.
You need a note from your doctor and possibly hospital to claim sick pay or a benefit.
If you’re self-employed, as a sole trader or in partnership with other people, you can still apply for benefits. If you’ve been paying national insurance, you may qualify for the ‘contributory element’ of Employment and Support Allowance. Contributory elements of benefits are based on the national insurance contributions you have made. If you haven’t paid enough national insurance, you could still qualify for non-contributory Employment and Support Allowance (or from October 2013, Universal Credit) if your income and savings are low. You may also qualify for other benefits depending on your personal circumstances, income, savings, care and/or mobility needs. If you’re the director of your own company, you can pay yourself Statutory Sick Pay. Contact our welfare rights advisers for advice.
Rights for carers
A carer is someone who provides unpaid support to a family member or friend who could not manage without this help. By law, as a carer you have the right to ‘reasonable’ time off work to deal with particular situations affecting someone who depends on you, such as your partner, child or parent. What counts as a reasonable amount of time off will depend on the individual circumstances, and your employer doesn’t have to pay you.
If you’ve been with your current employer for at least six months, you have the right to ask for flexible working so that you can care for someone who lives with you and depends on you. Flexible working is an arrangement that helps you balance your work with family or caring responsibilities. It could include flexitime (where you must work a certain number of hours but you can choose when these are to an extent), going part-time or working from home. Your employer must consider your request, but they can refuse it if they have good business reasons for doing so.
We have more information about working while caring for someone with cancer.
Applying for flexible working
You must apply in writing. This could be a letter or email, or your employer may have a standard application form - ask your human resources (HR) department. Your request should cover the following points:
That you’re applying under your statutory right to request flexible working.
The fact that you’re a carer and your relationship to the person you’re caring for. To qualify for flexible working, the person you care for must be your husband, wife or civil partner; a child under 17 (or a disabled child under 18); a near relative; or someone else who lives at the same address as you.
The type of flexible working you want. It’s up to you to decide. Some of the options are: part-time; flexitime; compressed hours (which means doing a full week’s work in four long days instead of five standard days, for example); working from home; or job-sharing with someone else.
The effect your flexible working will have on your employer and your suggestions for how any problems can be met. Talk to colleagues who’ll be affected and include details of their support for your request.
When you want the change to start. Give as much notice as you can, because the process of making the request can take up to 14 weeks.
The date of your application.
You have the right to appeal if your employer refuses your request. Your employer must tell you how to do this. If a request is granted, it will be a permanent change to your contract unless agreed otherwise, so make sure you discuss this with your employer.
From diagnosis, cancer counts as a disability under the Equality Act 2010 (England, Scotland and Wales only). The act protects against discrimination and harassment both at work and outside of work. This protection from discrimination continues even when there is no longer any evidence of the cancer being present. The act also protects carers against being discriminated against because of their caring responsibilities.
Your employer must make ‘reasonable adjustments’ so that you’re not at a disadvantage compared with other employees. Adjustments could include working from home or flexible hours.
In Northern Ireland, people who have or have had cancer are covered by the Disability Discrimination Act 1995. Following the decision by the European Court of Justice in Coleman v Attridge Law (2008), carers who are also employees are protected under the DDA 1995 from direct discrimination and harassment in the workplace in Northern Ireland.
If you’re ill and unable to work for more than a few days in a row, remember to ask your GP for a Statement of Fitness for Work (often called a ‘fit note’) to cover the period of your illness.
If you’re in hospital, ask your doctor or nurse for a Med 10 form to cover your time as an inpatient. You should also get a fit note to cover any further time your doctor says you need to be off work after returning home. You need the fit note and Med 10 to claim Statutory Sick Pay or a benefit. You may need to have a medical assessment to see if you’re eligible to claim.
You may have savings set aside to cover the unexpected. If your income is affected by cancer, now may be a good time to draw on those savings to either replace lost income or meet extra expenses.
Where you have substantial savings and investments, it may be possible to rearrange them so that they produce a steady income if needed.
For guidance on investing to provide income, you should contact a financial adviser. You can find one by searching on the findanadviser.org website.
Our information about managing savings and investments might be helpful.
Being diagnosed with cancer or having time off work as a result may mean you can make a claim if you have health insurance, such as critical illness cover, mortgage payment protection insurance or income protection insurance. This could be insurance you have taken out yourself, or cover provided through your employer.
Some types of insurance pay you a regular income or meet a particular expense, such as your mortgage or other loan repayments. Others pay out a lump sum. Some life insurance policies include an extra benefit called ‘terminal illness benefit’. This means the insurer will pay out the full amount of the insurance cover immediately if you’re expected to live less than 12 months.
Check your contract of employment or speak to your human resources (HR) department to find out if any insurance is available through your work.
For guidance on investing an insurance payout, you should contact a financial adviser.
Our section Buying insurance when you're affected by cancer has more about claiming on your insurance. Our financial guides can also give you information about insurance.
You can’t access your state pension until you reach state pension age. This is currently 65 for men and 61-65 for women, depending on when you were born. State pension age is increasing to 68 and probably beyond for younger people.
You may be able to draw a pension early from a current or previous employer’s occupational pension scheme, or any personal pensions. The earliest age you can do this is usually 55, but it can be earlier in the case of permanent ill health. Some employers’ schemes offer enhanced benefits for those permanently incapable of returning to work.
If you’re aged at least 60 and the value of all your pension savings is low, you may be able to take the entire amount as a cash lump sum. In certain circumstances, most pension providers will agree to pay out a larger, single, tax-free lump sum if you’re seriously ill. HM Revenue & Customs allows a pension fund to pay out a one-off, tax-free lump sum on the grounds of serious ill health if you have a life expectancy of less than 12 months. If you have medical evidence that suggests you have a life expectancy of less than 12 months, you may want to consider this option.
Our section Planning your pension when you have cancer has has more details. Our financial guides can send discuss any questions you have about pensions.