Self-employment and cancer FAQs

If you are self-employed you may worry about how cancer and its treatment could affect your work life. Here you can find answers to frequently asked questions about self-employment and cancer.

FAQs about self-employment and cancer

You can download our PDF of FAQs about self-employment and cancer. It has information about who may be able to help answer your questions.

  • How will cancer affect my work?

    It may be difficult to decide whether to work during your treatment. One of the most important things to think about is how your treatment is likely to affect you. You may want to keep working during treatment for financial reasons. 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.

    You may want to take time away from your work. This can depend on the type of work you do and whether anyone else can help for a while.

  • How will my business be affected?

    You may need to make decisions about how to keep your business going during and after cancer treatment.

    If you need to reduce your working hours, the cash flow of your business could be affected. You may be worried that you do not have cash to pay your employees or repay a business loan.

    Being self-employed may mean you work by yourself. It may mean that you can work in a more flexible way and set your own pace.

  • Should I tell my business contacts I have cancer?

    When you are self-employed, other people or businesses may rely on you to:

    • deliver your goods or services
    • make payments to them.

    They need to know if these agreements will be affected. This does not mean you must tell them you have cancer.

    It can help to take some time to decide who to tell about the cancer and what to tell them. You might not want or need to tell any business contacts. Or you might find that it is helpful to tell some people.

  • What benefits can I get if I am self-employed?

    When making decisions about taking time off work, you may need to think about:

    • your finances
    • any benefits you could get.

    Benefits are payments from the government to people who need financial help. There are many benefits that you may be able to get when you are self-employed.

    You can call our welfare rights advisers on 0808 808 00 00 for free. They are trained to help you claim any benefits you could get. You can use our benefits calculator to find out which benefits you may be eligible for.

  • What support can I get to keep my business running?
    You could get free or low-cost information about work and business from:

    If you have professional advisers, such as an accountant or a solicitor, ask for their guidance.

  • Can I get help at work? What is the Access to Work scheme?

    Access to Work is a government scheme. It offers grants and advice to help people with a disability or health condition stay in work. The scheme may pay for things such as:

    • special aids and any changes to equipment
    • travel to work, if you cannot use public transport
    • a job coach
    • a support worker to help you in the workplace
    • a support service for mental health conditions
    • disability awareness training for colleagues.

    For the scheme in England, Scotland and Wales, you can download an employers’ guide.

    Northern Ireland has a similar scheme called Access to Work (NI).

  • Will I need to do less with my business for a while?

    Finding out as much as possible about the cancer can help you plan your business and finances. It is also important to learn as much as you can about your treatment plan and how the treatment and its side effects may affect your ability to work. Your GP will be able to give you general advice and support. Your cancer doctor, nurse and other healthcare professionals can give you more detailed information.

  • Will I need to run my business in a different way, to make time for treatment and rest?

    You may have symptoms or side effects such as tiredness, weight loss, breathlessness or pain. Any of these can affect your ability to work or run your business. Your GP will be able to give you general advice and support. Your cancer doctor, nurse and other healthcare professionals can give you more detailed information.

  • When can I return to work after treatment?

    You might be tempted to do too much, too quickly. For example, if you are a manual worker, you may try to do too much physical work too soon. Or if your work is office-based, you may feel you should work long hours to catch up. It is important to listen to advice and guidance from your healthcare team. The type of cancer you have or the or treatment may limit how you can work. For example, people having some treatments for a brain tumour are not usually allowed to drive for a certain amount of time.

  • What do I need to do if I want to close my business?

    If you decide to close your business, speak to a financial adviser. Take the time to think through your options. You can contact one of Macmillan’s financial guides for free. Or you can go to the Personal Finance Society's website to search for a financial adviser. Depending on your situation, you may be able to sell the business or transfer the ownership.

About our information

  • Reviewers

    This information has been written, revised and edited by Macmillan Cancer Support’s Cancer Information Development team. It has been approved by Liz Egan, formerly with Macmillan’s Work and cancer team.

    Our cancer information has been awarded the PIF TICK. Created by the Patient Information Forum, this quality mark shows we meet PIF’s 10 criteria for trustworthy health information.

The language we use

We want everyone affected by cancer to feel our information is written for them.

We want our information to be as clear as possible. To do this, we try to:

  • use plain English
  • explain medical words
  • use short sentences
  • use illustrations to explain text
  • structure the information clearly
  • make sure important points are clear.

We use gender-inclusive language and talk to our readers as ‘you’ so that everyone feels included. Where clinically necessary we use the terms ‘men’ and ‘women’ or ‘male’ and ‘female’. For example, we do so when talking about parts of the body or mentioning statistics or research about who is affected.

You can read more about how we produce our information here.

Date reviewed

Reviewed: 01 September 2023
Next review: 01 September 2026
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.