Self-employment and cancer

How will cancer affect my business?

Cancer can cause uncertainties in your work life. You may not know how it will affect your business in the short term or in the future.

These include the type of cancer and its stage (its size and whether it has spread).

If you need to reduce your working hours to have tests, appointments and treatments, the cash flow of your business could be affected.

Being self-employed may mean you may not have the same kind of support that someone working for a larger organisation might have, after being diagnosed with cancer.

Being self-employed can also have advantages when you are going through cancer, you may be able to work in a more flexible way and set your own pace.

How do I make decisions about my business?

You may need to think about different things when making decisions about your business. Your finances and how your treatment will affect you are usually important factors.

You may find that working during your treatment gives you a sense of normality. It may help you focus on something other than the cancer. It may depend on the type of work you do, and whether anyone else can help out for a while.

What benefits am I entitled to?

There are many benefits that you may be able to get when you are self-employed:

You can call our welfare rights advisers and financial guides on 0808 808 00 00 for free. They are trained to help you to claim any benefits you may be eligible for.

If you are self-employed, you will not get sick pay. But you can still apply for other benefits if you cannot work or if your income decreases.

If you already receive certain benefits such as Housing Benefit or tax credits, you should get advice before applying for Universal Credit. These benefits will stop, and you may be worse off if you apply. You can speak to our welfare rights advisers on 0808 808 00 00.

Other forms of financial support

There are some other ways you may be able to get help with money when you are self-employed:

  • Loans and grants

    There are different types of grants and loans, from your local council, energy suppliers, other charities and organisations. We have more information about loans and grants.

  • Insurance

    You, or your partner if you have one, may have insurance policies that will pay out because of your situation. Check what policies you have and their terms.

  • Pension lump sum

    The State Pension can only be claimed once you reach a certain age. However, if you have a private pension, you may be able to take some of this money out early. This can be a helpful source of income if you are unable to work because of the cancer. But it is important to get professional financial advice, and to think about how it will affect your retirement income. Taking money from your pension early can also affect any state benefits you get.

  • Break from payments

    Your insurer or financial adviser can give you advice about any life insurance policies or pension plans you have. You may be able to take a break from payments. Also check to see if your policy or pension plan includes something called a waiver of premium benefit. This will pay your insurance or pension contributions (after a waiting period) if you cannot work due to an accident or illness.

Related pages

What are my rights if I am self-employed?

If you have, or have ever had cancer, the law considers you to be disabled. This means you cannot be treated less favourably than other people (who do not have cancer) because you have cancer, or for reasons connected to the cancer. That would be discrimination.

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.

People with their own business may not be protected from disability discrimination by a customer or client.

Even if the law does not protect you, talking to people you work with about the cancer diagnosis and its impact can often help.

How will cancer affect my feelings about work?

Having cancer may change the way you feel about work. You may feel:

  • angry that you might not be able to work as usual
  • worried about how your colleagues or clients might react
  • guilty, if others may need to take on some of your work
  • worried about money
  • frustrated that you might have to take time off.

Talking about your feelings can often help. You might worry that by asking for help, you are being a burden. However, people are usually pleased to be asked and are able to support you. It can be difficult to know who to talk to and what to say. It is important to speak to someone you feel comfortable with and trust.

Booklets and resources

Where can I find support?

You may be able to get more support through:

  • Charities such as Macmillan – call us on 0808 808 00 00 to find out how we can support you.
  • Financial support schemes to help you stay in work – such as the Access to Work scheme, or the Access to Work (NI) scheme if you live in Northern Ireland.
  • State benefits from the government to support you when you are ill or unable to work.

There are also government schemes supporting small businesses and people who are self-employed – these include:

Trusted Information Creator - Patient Information Forum
Trusted Information Creator - Patient Information Forum

Our cancer information meets the PIF TICK quality mark.

This means it is easy to use, up-to-date and based on the latest evidence. Learn more about how we produce our information.