Giving up work temporarily or permanently

If you decide not to work during treatment, you may want to think about whether you will return to work when treatment ends, or whether you will give up work for good.

It’s difficult to tell how much treatment will affect you. It is therefore important to make sure you go back to work very progressively. Try not to stretch yourself too much physically or do too much at once. It might take time for you to recover. You may need to accept changes and be flexible.

Support is available from the Access to Work scheme. They provide support to meet extra costs that arise because of your health needs. Legislation protects people in self-employment against discrimination, harassment and victimisation. This includes cancer-related discrimination.

If you decide to give up work permanently to focus on treatment, you will need to make several legal and financial decisions. It’s important to think carefully about the financial implications of giving up working. You can discuss those issues with a financial adviser. You can also find information from HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) and Business Debtline.

Returning to work after treatment

It’s unlikely anyone will be able to tell you for sure what effect the cancer and its treatment will have on you. Many people find this hard to accept. If you’re not sure when you might be ready to get back to work, it’s okay to see how things go and to keep your options open. You may find returning to work helps you get back to normal.

There may be a temptation to push yourself too far, too quickly. For example, if you are a manual worker, perhaps a bricklayer or mechanic, you may be tempted to stretch yourself too far physically. Or if your work is office-based, you may feel as though you should work long hours in front of a computer to catch up with tasks you may have fallen behind with.

However, if you can, you should plan to return to work gradually. Try to decide what’s most important and just do those parts of your work until you feel stronger. Give yourself regular breaks – you can even schedule them into your diary as appointments.

If you’ve had treatment for a brain tumour, it will usually be at least a year before you will be allowed to drive again. See our booklet Understanding brain tumours for more information.

It helps to remember that your recovery may not always be straightforward. You may have some setbacks or your circumstances may change along the way, so try to remain flexible.

How to contact Access to Work

If the cancer or another long-term health condition affects your work, get in touch with your regional Access to Work contact centre to check whether you are eligible for help. Access to Work gives employees and employers advice and support to meet the additional costs that may arise because of the employee’s health condition.

Centres can be found at Alternatively, ask the disability employment adviser at your local Jobcentre Plus.

There is a similar programme of the same name in Northern Ireland. Visit to find out more.

Protection from discrimination, harassment and victimisation

The Equality Act 2010 has replaced discrimination laws in England, Scotland and Wales – including the Disability Discrimination Act – bringing them together in one place.

The Disability Discrimination Act still protects people with a disability in Northern Ireland. You can find out more about this act at

Under the Equality Act, it’s unlawful to discriminate against someone because of their disability. Everyone with cancer is classed as disabled under the act, from the time of diagnosis and then for the rest of their lives. The act includes protection for self-employed people against any discrimination, including cancer-related. It also protects you against harassment or victimisation when using goods and services, and education and transport.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission has a helpline that can give you information and guidance about your rights as a person with a disability.

Giving up work for good

Some people choose to give up work completely when they’re diagnosed with cancer. This allows them to focus on the cancer and its treatment, and other aspects of their lives.

You’ll need to think carefully about the effect this may have on your finances. It’s important to get advice from an independent financial adviser. You’ll need to consider the money you’ll receive from a state or private pension, and from any other sources, such as savings, shares or benefits.

If you do decide to stop working, take time to think this through. Depending on your situation, you may be able to sell the business or transfer the ownership.

If you decide to close your business, you’ll need to take some important legal and financial steps. For example, if you stop trading you’ll have to inform Companies House and HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) straight away. Not only is this a legal requirement, but it may also help your finances.

For example, if your income will be lower, you may be able to reduce your tax payments.

Other actions you may need to take would depend on whether you are a sole trader, a partner in a business or if you run a company with directors. If you employ staff or if you’re registered for VAT, you will have extra responsibilities. The procedures you need to carry out will also depend on whether you can pay off all your business debts. It’s a good idea to ask a professional, such as an accountant, to guide you. You can look at the HMRC information and, in particular, its web page There’s also useful information on the government services and information website

You’ll also need to think about how you manage any jobs you've already agreed to do. For example, if you've promised to complete some work for a customer, can you get it done before you stop work? You may be able to recommend someone else to finish the job. It may be possible to claim on your business or professional insurance if you can’t fulfill a contract. If you’re worried about paying any money you owe for your business, you can get free and confidential advice from Business Debtline.

Back to If you're self-employed

Self-employment and cancer

If you’re self-employed you may worry about work and money during your cancer treatment. Support is available to help you cope financially and emotionally.

Working during treatment

Deciding whether to carry on working during treatment is a difficult decision. It depends on individual circumstances.

Making treatment decisions

When you’re self-employed, you may have particular questions about treatment decisions and how they could impact on your work.

Managing your workload

Cancer treatment can have an impact on the way you run your business. You may need to reorganise your activities to manage your workload.

Managing your finances

If you’re self-employed and have had to reduce your work activity, you may worry about your professional and personal finances. Support is available to help you cope with financial issues.