If your illness affects your ability to work

We are currently updating our financial information following the March 2015 budget announcement. For the most up-to-date information, please contact us on 0808 808 00 00.

There are a number of ways you can get financial assistance if your illness affects your ability to work:

  • You can claim Statutory Sick Pay if you’re off work for at least four days in a row and your average weekly earnings are at least £112. It will be paid by your employer for up to 28 weeks of sickness.
  • You may be able to get occupational or company sick pay in addition to Statutory Sick Pay. Check your contract or ask your human resources department about this.
  • Employment and Support Allowance has replaced Incapacity Benefit. It is a benefit for people under the State Pension age who are no longer able to work due to illness or disability.
  • If you’re self-employed, you may still qualify for benefits, such as Employment and Support Allowance.
  • If you have to give up work, you may be entitled to an income tax refund.

In England, Scotland and Wales, the Equality Act 2010 protects your employment rights if you have or have had cancer. In Northern Ireland, the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 protects you. These laws will protect you if your employer discriminates you because of your illness.

Statutory Sick Pay

You may be able to get Statutory Sick Pay if you’re an employee and unable to work because of your cancer or another illness. You can claim it if you meet both of these conditions:

  • You’re unwell and off work for at least 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.

Statutory Sick Pay is paid by your employer for up to 28 weeks of sickness. The standard rate is currently £88.45 a week. Before your Statutory Sick Pay is due to end, you should check whether you’re entitled to Employment and Support Allowance.

How to claim

Ask your employer, as they’re responsible for making these payments. If you qualify for Statutory Sick Pay, your employer can’t pay you less.

Occupational or company sick pay

You may be entitled to occupational or company sick pay on top of Statutory Sick Pay. Check your employment contract, or contact your manager or the human resources department at your work to find out.


Employment rights

You may be covered by employment law if your employer:

  • dismisses you because of your illness
  • doesn’t pay you what you’re entitled to
  • discriminates against you in any way because of your illness.

The Equality Act 2010 protects anyone in England, Scotland or Wales who has, or has had, cancer. In Northern Ireland, the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 protects you. Even if a person who had cancer in the past has been successfully treated and is now cured, they’ll still be covered by these acts. This means their employer must not discriminate against them for any reason, including their past cancer.

Read more information about work and cancer.


Income tax refund

If you have to give up work and your income falls, you may be eligible for a tax refund.

How can I claim?

Your employer may be able to organise this, or contact HM Revenue & Customs. If your circumstances have changed, it’s also worth asking whether you’re still paying the correct amount of tax.


Employment and Support Allowance (means-tested/contribution-based)

This benefit provides financial help to people who are under State Pension age and are unable to work because of their illness or disability.

There are two types of Employment and Support Allowance: contributory-based and income-related (means-tested). You may get either or both types, depending on your income, savings, and how much national insurance you’ve paid.

For income-related Employment and Support Allowance, some types of earnings (including those of your partner) may be disregarded. This is usually £20 of your weekly income. But if you are doing certain types of ‘permitted work’ that you are allowed to do while claiming, more of your income may be disregarded.

Applying for Employment and Support Allowance

When you apply for this benefit, you will usually have to provide the DWP with medical certificates about your illness or disability. You may also need to attend a face-to-face medical assessment.

If you meet the initial medical requirements, you will be paid at the basic rate for the first 13 weeks of the claim. This is currently £73.10 for single people. If you have a partner, you may be entitled to more.

Unless you’re terminally ill or awaiting, having or recovering from certain types of cancer treatment, or have claimed the benefit before in the previous 12 weeks, you may need to take part in a work capability assessment.

The work capability assessment is to find out how your illness or disability limits your ability to work. You may be asked to attend a face-to-face meeting as part of this assessment.

You can take someone with you for support to any face-to-face assessments that you are asked to attend as part of your claim.

If the work capability assessment shows that you still qualify for Employment and Support Allowance, you will be placed in either the support group or work-related activity group.

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 do work-related activities. An extra payment of £35.75 is paid to anyone in the support group.

If your ability to work is limited, but not severely, you’ll be placed in the work-related activity group, and you’ll have to go to six work-focused interviews. A smaller additional payment of £29.05 is paid to anyone in this group.

If you are receiving, waiting for, or recovering from certain types of cancer treatment, or if you are terminally ill

If you’re receiving, waiting for, or recovering from, any kind of chemotherapy or radiotherapy, you should be treated as unable to work or to undertake any work-related activity. This should mean you meet the requirements for Employment and Support Allowance and are automatically placed in the support group after 13 weeks of receiving Employment and Support allowance at the basic rate.

If you are terminally ill, you will automatically be placed in the support group from the start of your claim.


Time-limits for Employment and Support Allowance (England, Scotland and Wales only)

You can only receive contribution-based Employment and Support Allowance in the work-related activity group for 12 months. After 12 months, the benefit will stop unless you:

  • claim and qualify for income-related Employment and Support Allowance (or, depending on where you live and your situation, Universal Credit)
  • ask to be placed in, and are accepted for, the support group.

If you think this may affect you, speak to a welfare rights adviser as soon as possible.


Employment and Support Allowance for self-employment

If you are self-employed and unable to work due to illness or disability, you may be entitled to claim Employment and Support Allowance. You must have paid the correct level of national insurance contributions, though.

Depending on your circumstances, you may be able to get more money if you qualify for income and savings-related (means-tested) Employment and Support Allowance. People who haven’t paid the relevant national insurance contributions may still qualify for Employment and Support Allowance under the means-tested route. You may qualify in this way if you have savings of less than £16,000 and if your income is below a certain amount.

Since April 2013, income-related Employment and Support Allowance has gradually started to be replaced by Universal Credit in England, Scotland and Wales.


Incapacity Benefit (non-means-tested/ contribution or non-contribution)

Incapacity Benefit is only paid to people who started claiming it before 31 January 2011 because they couldn’t work due to illness or disability. At this time it was replaced by Employment and Support Allowance for people making a new claim.

If you’re still receiving Incapacity Benefit (or Income Support through incapacity) you’ll be transferred to Employment and Support Allowance at some point. Your claim will be assessed using the work capability assessment.

If you still get Incapacity Benefit, you will still receive the same rate as you currently do (including any annual increases) until you are assessed for Employment and Support Allowance.


Back to Working age benefits

Managing on a low income

There is financial help available if you are working and have a low income.

Universal Credit

Universal Credit is a payment for people who are on a low income or looking for work in England, Scotland and Wales.

Jobseeker's Allowance

Jobseeker’s Allowance can give you a weekly income if you are unemployed and able to work.

Industrial injuries disablement benefit

You can claim Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit if you’re ill or disabled due to your work.