Cancer and sick pay entitlement

If you work for an employer and take time off sick because of cancer, you may be able to get sick pay.

Can I get sick pay?

If you work for an employer and take time off sick, you may be able to get sick pay. This could be 1 of the following:

  • Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) – this is money most employees can get if they are too sick to work.
  • Occupational or company sick pay – this is a company’s own sick pay scheme. If your employer has one, it will be written into your contract. The scheme may give you more money by adding an extra amount to SSP. Some employers pay staff in full for a certain number of sick days.

Your employer will pay you SSP for up to 28 weeks.

You can claim SSP if you:

  • are off work sick for 4 days in a row or more, including non-working days
  • earn at least the Lower Earnings Limit (LEL) a week on average
  • tell your employer you are sick before their deadline, or within 7 days if they do not have one.

The government sets the LEL each tax year. To see the current amount, visit

Getting a SSP1 form

Before your SSP ends, your employer should give you a form called SSP1. This form tells you when your last payment will be.

You need this form if you want to apply for a benefit called Employment and Support Allowance (ESA). It can also support an application for Universal Credit (UC).

You should still receive an SSP1 form even if you did not qualify for SSP.

Speak to your manager or HR department, if you have one, to find out what sick pay they offer and how to claim.

Asking for a fit note

If you are off sick for more than 7 days, you will need a fit note to cover your illness. This is also called a sick note or a Statement of Fitness for Work. This explains how your health affects what you can do at work.

You can get a fit note from any healthcare professional who has been treating you. For example, this could be your:

  • GP
  • specialist nurse
  • occupational therapist
  • pharmacist
  • physiotherapist.

You need a fit note to get sick pay and to claim benefits. It also allows your cancer doctor or other healthcare professionals to say how your condition affects your ability to work. This helps your employer understand how they might help you keep working or return to work.

For more information, visit the UK Government website

Talking to your employer about sick pay

Check whether your employer has rules or policies about when and how you tell them you are taking time off sick.

If there are none, to qualify for sick pay, you will need to tell your employer within a week of the first day you are sick.

Your employer does not have to pay Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) for any days before this.

Can I get sick pay if I am self-employed?

If you are self-employed, you will not get sick pay. But you can still apply for other benefits if you cannot work or your income decreases. For example, if you lose some of your income, you may be able to get:

If you already get certain benefits such as Housing Benefit or tax credits, you should get advice before applying for UC. These benefits will stop, and you may get less money if you apply. You can speak to our welfare rights advisers for free on 0808 808 00 00.

What if I am unable to work?

You may be unable to work during your cancer treatment. There are different benefits that you may be able to get.

Dealing with money and benefits can be stressful at any time. But it can be particularly hard when you are already coping with cancer.

You can call the Macmillan Support Line on 0808 808 00 00 for free to talk to a financial guide or a welfare rights advisers. You may find both services useful. They can give you information about:

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 Michelle Rouse Griffiths, Professional Development and Knowledge Lead, Macmillan Cancer Support and 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.