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During treatment some people may try to continue to work, but may need to take a few days or weeks off. This may affect you financially.
If you take time off it may be as one period of sick leave, or could be a few days every month for a period of time.
Some people choose or need to stop working throughout their treatment. This could be for a period of weeks, months or even years. When deciding whether you want to carry on working| or whether you’d like to take the whole time off| sick, you may like to think about the issues below and also the financial considerations|.
It may help to contact an independent financial adviser (IFA) to get advice on your financial options. IFAs can assess your individual situation and recommend the best course of action. You can find a local IFA by referral from family or friends, looking in your phone book, or by contacting IFA Promotions| or the Personal Finance Society.|
If you have any private insurance cover for income replacement, life insurance, loan or mortgage protection or critical illness cover, you should speak to your insurance company or financial adviser as soon as possible.
You can get advice from your insurer or financial adviser about any conditions that apply to your life insurance or pension plans, such as being able to take a break from payments or a waiver of premium.
A waiver of premium benefit means that the insurance company will pay the premium for you for a set period of time, for example, until you’re fit to work or until the end of the policy.
All employees who earn enough money to pay national insurance contributions are eligible to receive Statutory Sick Pay. It’s paid by your employer for up to 28 weeks of sickness. The standard rate of Statutory Sick Pay is currently £85.85 a week.
Statutory Sick Pay starts when you have been off work for four days and continues until you either return to or leave work, or until the end of the 28-week period. At the end of the 28-week period, your employer should complete a form SSP1 (Statutory Sick Pay Leavers Statement) and give it to you. This will explain that your Statutory Sick Pay is finishing and tell you where to get further help and advice about benefits.
Periods of Statutory Sick Pay payment linked by less than eight weeks (56 days) are considered to be the same period of absence - in other words, you need to be back at work for over eight weeks before you can claim again for the full 28 weeks of Statutory Sick Pay.
You should tell your employer that you are sick no later than seven days after you first become ill. If you qualify for Statutory Sick Pay, your employer cannot pay you less.
You may be entitled to this on top of Statutory Sick Pay - check your employment contract or speak to your human resources department.
If you’re ill and not able to work for more than a few days, 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 fit note to cover the time that you are an inpatient. This will be necessary if you need to claim a benefit. You may need to have a medical assessment to see if you are eligible to claim.
Some of the benefits and allowances that you may be able to claim are detailed below. As the benefits system is changing significantly over the next few years, it’s a good idea to get help from an experienced welfare rights adviser. To speak to one, call the Macmillan Support Line| or contact the Benefit Enquiry Line| (or the Northern Ireland Benefit Enquiry Line|) .
If you’re still unable to work after receiving Statutory Sick Pay for 28 weeks, or your contract ends before that time and you are still unable to work, you may be able to claim Employment and Support Allowance. This benefit provides financial help to people who are unable to work because of illness or disability. It also provides personalised support to those who are able to work.
Employment and Support Allowance has both a contributory part and an income-related (means-tested) part. People may get either or both depending on their contribution record and their income and capital.
Employment and Support Allowance may be paid at a basic rate for the first 13 weeks of the claim. During this time, unless you are terminally ill, you may need to take part in a work capability assessment. This involves filling in and sending back a questionnaire about how your illness or disability affects your ability to complete everyday tasks.
Your doctor may also be asked to complete a report. This evidence will be considered by an approved healthcare professional who may recommend you attend a face-to-face assessment if more information is needed about your condition. If the work capability assessment shows your illness or disability limits your ability to work, you’ll be placed into one of two groups: the support group or the work-related activity group.
If you still qualify for Employment and Support Allowance after 13 weeks, you'll enter the main phase of the benefit. If your illness or disability has a severe effect on your ability to work, you’ll be placed in the support group and you won’t have to undertake work-related activities. An additional is payment made to anyone in the support group.
If your ability to work is limited, but not severely so, you’ll be placed in the work-related activity group, and you’ll have to attend six work-focused interviews. A smaller additional payment will be made to anyone in this group.
If you are receiving intravenous (by injection into a vein) chemotherapy* or are likely to receive it within six months you will automatically be assessed as having limited capability for work and will be placed in the support group.
If you’re ill and unable to claim, remember to ask your GP for a medical certificate for the period of your illness. If you’re in hospital, ask your doctor or nurse for a certificate to cover the time that you are an inpatient. This is necessary if you need to claim a benefit.
Under the Welfare Reform Act 2012, the amount of time a person can receive contributory-based Employment and Support Allowance in the work-related activity group is limited to 12 months. After 12 months, the benefit will stop unless you claim and qualify for income-related Employment and Support Allowance or you request to be placed in, and are accepted for, the support group. If you think this may affect you, please speak to a welfare rights adviser as soon as possible.
This benefit is for people under 65 who have difficulty walking or looking after themselves (or both). To qualify, you need to have had difficulty walking or taking care of yourself for at least three months. These difficulties should be expected to last for at least the next six months. You need to make a claim before you turn 65, but if you’re awarded the benefit, it will still be paid after you turn 65, provided you still meet the qualifying criteria. You don’t need to have a carer to qualify for this benefit. If you are terminally ill, you don’t have to meet the three-and six-month qualifying conditions.
As part of the Welfare Reform Act 2012, Disability Living Allowance will be replaced by a Personal Independence Payment for people of working age from April 2013. Everyone aged 16–64 receiving Disability Living Allowance will be reassessed to see whether they are entitled to a Personal Independence Payment.
This benefit is for people aged 65 or over who have difficulty looking after themselves. You may qualify if you need help with personal care, such as getting out of bed, having a bath or dressing yourself. The benefit is based on the amount of care you need and not any care you may currently be getting. You must have needed care for at least six months prior to making a claim, unless you are terminally ill.
If you’ve been turned down for a benefit, tax credit or Social Fund payment, you may be able to appeal against that decision or ask for a review. You must do this within a certain time frame. This can be a complicated process, so please ask a benefits adviser for help as soon as possible. Call Macmillan on freephone to speak to a benefits adviser|.
All life assurance, critical illness insurance and occupational pension schemes have different rules and operate in different ways. It’s important to get independent financial advice to find out about the policies you may have and the best thing to do in your situation. For example, you may want to use a payout from an insurance claim or from severance of your employment to pay a lump sum off your mortgage.
If you have an existing life insurance policy and can’t continue to pay your premiums, you can find out if a waiver of premium applies to the plan. This means the insurance company will pay the policy premium for you, for a time, if you’re ill and unable to work. Different companies have different policies and the time they will pay the premiums may vary.
If you need money urgently, you could talk to an independent financial adviser about your options. For example, you may be able to take out a loan against your life insurance policy, sell the policy or surrender the policy. However, you may find it impossible to take out a new life insurance policy for a few years after you have had cancer, so bear this in mind when planning your finances.
If you’re paying into an occupational pension scheme, or are considering paying into one, make sure you have full information about the scheme. Your human resources department, trade union representative or pension scheme’s trustees will be able to help.
You have the right to leave or decide not to join a scheme, but always consider the implications carefully and take advice from an independent financial adviser before you make a decision.
If you leave one job to go to another, there are several ways your pension rights may be dealt with. Find out what your options are from your new employer. You may want to discuss it with an independent financial adviser.
If you’ve had a temporary interruption of work due to sickness, find out how this affects your pension. There can be variations in the conditions that may affect your pension entitlement.
For more information about benefits and financial support, please contact us.
We also have information and vidoes on financial issues| and sources of financial support .
You can also find out more about benefits from your local Citizens Advice|. You will usually need to make an appointment. Or you can get information from the Benefit Enquiry Line| on 0800 882 200, the Directgov website at gov.uk| or nidirect.gov| if you live in Northern Ireland.
The Benefit Enquiry Line has some advisers who speak other languages and can also arrange to give information through interpreters. Benefit information in other languages is available on the Department for Work and Pensions website at dwp.gov.uk| under the ‘A to Z of DWP information products’. The Macmillan Support Line| also has an interpretation service in more than 200 languages. The hospital social worker can give you advice on sources of financial help.
Remember that a change in your circumstances (such as a reduction or increase in your salary or in the number of hours you work) can mean you’re entitled to more or less benefit. You need to find out in detail the regulations and conditions that apply to your benefits.
Content last reviewed: 1 May 2011
Next planned review: 2013
For answers, support or just a chat, call the Macmillan Support Line free (Monday to Friday, 9am-8pm)
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© Macmillan Cancer Support 2013
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