Stopping work

Stopping work because of cancer, either for a while or permanently, is a difficult decision to make. Find out more about things you may need to think about.

Stopping work

You may decide to stop working when you are diagnosed with cancer, during treatment or after treatment finishes. You may want to focus on treatment and time with family and friends. If work has been an important part of your life, you might be worried about coping with this change. But you may find it gives you more time to do things that are important to you.

You may decide to return to work later, or choose to do something different. Or you may start volunteering. Choose what is right for you and your situation.

Try to let family or friends know if you are dealing with difficult feelings about giving up work. You may find it helpful to talk to a professional counsellor. You can ask your GP or nurse about this.

Before you decide to stop working, you may need to think about how it will affect your finances. When you give up work, you lose any employment rights you might have had. These include:

  • occupational sick pay
  • death in service benefit
  • Statutory Sick Pay
  • pension rights
  • any private medical insurance linked with your employer.

Help for carers and family members

If a partner or family member takes time off work to look after you, they may be entitled to compassionate or unpaid leave.

Early retirement

You may want to take early retirement because of your heath or for personal reasons. If you do, it is a good idea to get advice from an independent pensions adviser. Taking early retirement is a big decision. Macmillan's financial guides can help you understand your options and questions to think about first. You can call them on 0808 808 00 00.

You may be able to get an early payment at any age from your pension because of ill health. This depends on the rules of your pension scheme.

You can also get advice from an independent financial adviser. Getting the right advice may help you get a higher income from your pension.

Some things to think about are:

  • If you access a workplace or private pension due to ill health, you may get a bigger annual income or lump sum compared to someone who retires early while medically fit to work.
  • People who are expected to live for less than 12 months can normally take their whole pension as a tax-free lump sum.
  • Some pension schemes may not allow you to retire early if you are fit to work. Make sure you check your policy.

It is important to think about your own situation before making any decisions. For example, you might need to decide between:

  • taking a large lump-sum payment plus a small monthly income
  • taking a small lump-sum payment plus a large monthly income.

It is important to think about any benefits you are claiming. For example Employment and Support Allowance may be reduced if you get payments of more than a certain amount each week from a pension.

If your life expectancy is less than 12 months

If you have a life expectancy of less than 12 months, you may be able to retire because of serious ill health. You will usually get the whole of your pension as a one-off lump sum.

The whole sum will usually be tax-free. A registered medical professional must give evidence to the scheme administrator that your life expectancy is less than a year.

Any money you take from your pension, but do not spend or give away before you die, will become part of your estate. Your estate is the money and property you leave behind when you die.

You can speak to one of our financial guides on 0808 808 00 00 about your options.


When you are making decisions about work, your finances may be an important thing to think about.

Giving up work could affect your finances. This might include your income, pension and any employee benefits you are entitled to. Our financial guides can help with managing your finances. Call them free on 0808 808 00 00.

If early retirement is an option, discuss it with your employer. For some people, it could be an advantage. But for others, it can leave them financially worse off. Our financial guides can discuss this with you.

We have more information about benefits you may be able to get if you are a carer.

How we can help

Macmillan Grants

If you have cancer, you may be able to get a Macmillan Grant to help with the extra costs of cancer. Find out who can apply and how to access our grants.

Financial guidance
Financial issues can cause worry when someone becomes ill. You may be able to claim benefits to help you in your situation. You may also be able to get financial assistance from other organisations.