Assessing your finances

A cancer diagnosis can have a negative impact on your finances. At a time when you may have extra expenses, you may also need to take time off work. But this doesn’t always mean your income will completely stop. Assessing your situation is the first step in planning ahead to meet your needs.

Employers should make ‘reasonable adjustments’ to help you continue working. You, and your partner, relatives or carer(s) may have the right to request flexible working. You might also be eligible for sick pay or state benefits. Check with your HR department to find out if they have their own scheme. If you have been absent for at least four consecutive days, you may qualify for Statutory Sick Pay.

Considering your main financial needs will help focus your priorities. These will be different for everyone and may change with time. For many people, managing debts, buying a home, saving for retirement or setting aside emergency funds are important. Call our financial guides on 0808 808 00 00 for personal advice on your individual situation.

Assessing your financial situation when you have cancer

The first step to planning your finances is to assess your situation. Thinking about the questions on this page should help you do this.

Our financial guides are experienced in helping people affected by cancer deal with these issues. For personalised guidance about your individual situation, call them on 0808 808 00 00.

General information

A photograph of Kris, who was diagnosed with liver cancer and then non-Hodgkin lymphoma. He's standing by the road talking. Kris on money worries

'Having an adviser took away some of the stress and worry so that I could focus on recovery.'

Will you need to take time off work?

You will usually spend some time in hospital and away from work when having tests and treatments. The symptoms of cancer or the side effects of treatment may also make it harder to work.

For some people, these effects will be temporary. Others may need to make permanent changes to their working lives. Many people find they’re unable to work while having treatment.

If you need to take time off work, it may affect your income. But it doesn’t necessarily mean your income will stop completely. You may be able to claim sick pay, get state benefits, or get other financial help.

Employment rights

Employers also need to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ to help you keep on working under the Equality Act 2010 (in England, Scotland and Wales) and the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (in Northern Ireland). These laws protect people affected by cancer and their carers from discrimination.

We have information about work and cancer that you may find helpful. You can order free copies of our booklets about work and cancer. Our financial guides can also help with work issues.

We can also send you detailed information about different cancer types and treatments. This could help you understand the effect your cancer may have on your ability to work.

Can you get sick pay from your employer?

If you are employed but have been unable to work because of illness for some time, you may be able to claim sick pay from your employer.

Occupational or company sick pay

Many employers have their own sick pay schemes. Check your work contract or ask your HR (human resources) department to find out whether your employer has its own scheme.

Statutory Sick Pay

The minimum that employers must offer is Statutory Sick Pay (SSP). You may be able to get SSP if:

  • you’re unwell and off work sick for four days in a row (including weekends, bank holidays and days that you don’t normally work)
  • your average weekly earnings are at least £112.

SSP is paid by your employer for up to 28 weeks of sickness. Employers cannot pay you less than this if you qualify for SSP.

To find out more, visit the website (if you live in England, Scotland and Wales) or the NI Direct website (if you live in Northern Ireland). We have more information about benefits and financial help for people affected by cancer in England, Scotland and Wales. In Northern Ireland, the welfare system is being reviewed. Visit the NI Direct website for the latest benefits information.

Are your expenses going to increase?

A cancer diagnosis can lead to extra expenses. These can include:

  • travelling to and from hospital
  • hospital parking (although people with cancer are entitled to reduced-cost or free parking in some situations)
  • increased energy bills if you’re more sensitive to the cold or staying at home more
  • childcare costs if you have children.

You may be able to get help with these costs. To find out more, call our welfare rights advisors on 0808 808 00 00. If you live in Northern Ireland, visit the NI Direct website for help with expenses.

Remember that prescriptions are free for people living with cancer across the UK. This includes medication not related to cancer.

Do you have any big expenses coming up?

Some people with cancer need to make big purchases, such as buying a new bed or adapting their car. Think about whether this might apply to you. Call the Macmillan Support Line on 0808 808 00 00 for more help from one of our financial guides.

What help is available to the people supporting you?

You may have a carer who helps you with everyday tasks, for example by helping out with your shopping or driving you to appointments. They may have to take some time off work to care for you. This could affect their income.

If they have an employer, they have the right to request flexible working if they are:

  • your husband, wife or civil partner
  • a near relative
  • someone you live with.

They also have the right to take a reasonable amount of unpaid time off work in an emergency to look after you. The law also protects carers against discrimination.

Our section about working while caring for someone with cancer has more information.

What are your main financial needs?

Most people’s basic financial needs include:

  • Having enough money to live on.
  • Having some money set aside that you could access easily in an emergency.
  • Getting any debts under control.
  • Making sure your family is financially secure.
  • Buying your own home.
  • Saving for retirement. You may consider this to be lower down the list of priorities if your finances are under a lot of strain. But pension schemes may include benefits for your family and give you long-term security, so it’s best to keep saving for retirement if you can.
  • Making other plans, such as saving for holidays or your children’s future needs, or borrowing money to adapt your home.

Everybody has different financial needs. So your priorities may not be in the same order as the list above.

To help you think about your financial needs, the Money Advice Service has an online financial health check questionnaire. It asks you questions about your situation and then suggests steps you could take to plan ahead.

Back to Planning your finances

Planning your budget

Reviewing your savings, investments and income will help you plan your budget.