Self employed

Worries about work are very common for people affected by cancer. They may seem especially tough if you are self-employed or run your own business.

Cancer and the self employed

About 4.8 million people in the UK are self-employed. Running your own business can be very rewarding. But a cancer diagnosis can be especially worrying if you work this way.

If you are self-employed and living with cancer, you might be worried about money and work. Being told you have cancer can be a difficult time if you have your own business, but there is help available. 

If you have been diagnosed with cancer and you are self-employed, you may need to think about:

  • taking time off work for treatment
  • making decisions about your business
  • talking to your clients about your work if you have to take time off. 


"The financial worries came a little bit later after the initial shell shock of being diagnosed. I am self-employed so this has been a little harder to navigate, and Macmillan have really helped. To this day Macmillan are still there." Saima, diagnosed with lung cancer in 2018.

How to talk to an adviser

If you are self-employed, you may not have legal protection against discrimination. In some cases, you may be protected against discrimination if you are employed under a contract. This means there is an agreement between you and an employer that you will personally do work and be paid for it.

If you want to know how equality laws could help you, call our Work Support Service using the Macmillan Support Line for free on 0808 808 00 00.

Our advisers are available Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm.

Financial Guidance Help Line

If you are self-employed the Macmillan Financial Guidance Help Line can provide free impartial guidance and support on all areas of personal finance, such as: 

  • insurance 
  • pensions
  • mortgages
  • financial planning.

Access to benefits

There are also many benefits that you may be able to get when you are self-employed. Our Welfare Rights Service can help you understand what support you may be eligible for.

Further help and information

We have further information on this website about self employment and cancer. It covers questions you may have including:

  • How will cancer affect my business?
  • How do I make decisions about my business?
  • What benefits am I entitled to?
  • Other forms of financial support
  • What are my rights if I am self-employed?
  • How will cancer affect my feelings about work?
  • Where can I find support?

Booklets and resources

If you run a small business

Supporting an employee affected by cancer can be tough, especially when you run a small business. You may be worried about how it will impact your team and the day-to-day running of the business. You can find out about your legal responsibilities as well as ways of supporting your employees through cancer or a bereavement using our small business tool here.

You may also find our employer information pages helpful.