Common questions about work and cancer

Published: 07 February 2024

If you have cancer you may be worried about how your diagnosis may affect your ability to work.


Here we answer some of the common questions asked about cancer and work. This includes your rights at work, options for financial support and how Macmillan can help support you.

A white woman with short brown hair and glasses.

Ros, Digital Content Editor at Macmillan

What are my rights at work if I have cancer?

If you have been diagnosed with cancer or have had cancer in the past, the law considers this a disability. This means you cannot be treated less favourably than other people because you have cancer, or for reasons connected to the cancer.

As someone who has had a cancer diagnosis, you have rights at work. You are protected by The Equality Act (in England, Scotland and Wales) and the Disability Discrimination Act (in Northern Ireland).

This applies to employees, job applicants and self-employed people. Find out more about cancer and employment rights.

See also 

Your rights at work when you are affected by cancer booklet

Should I tell my employer I have cancer?

"Work let me take my time, and when I did start going back I just started off doing a few hours here and there. I realise I was quite lucky, and I know some people weren’t so lucky with their employers." Vivek, diagnosed with brain and testicular cancer

It can be helpful to talk to your employer and tell them you have cancer, if you feel comfortable to do so. Your employer should try to help and support you.

If your employer knows about your diagnosis, then legally they have to consider reasonable adjustments to support you at work. This includes adjustments that protect your health, such as allowing you to work from home, or adjusting your duties or hours to help you with side effects such as fatigue.

It’s helpful to have regular catch-ups with your manager to check how things are going and see if you need any other changes. This is helpful if you need to take time off work or when you are considering returning to work.

It might also help to share this information about Macmillan at work  with your employer, which gives advice and training resources about supporting people with cancer in the workplace.

See also

Talking about your diagnosis

Can I get sick pay?

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

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

Am I entitled to benefits if I have cancer?

You might have a few questions about which benefits and financial support you might be entitled to.

You can use our online benefits calculator to check what you can can claim. It uses information about your household income, savings, pension and any existing benefits. If you have a partner, you will need information about their financial situation.

See also

Help with bills and housing costs

Travel costs

What help can I get if I am self-employed?

If you're self-employed and need financial support because of cancer or rising costs affecting your business, there may be benefits or other support you can get. Read more about being self-employment and cancer.

What other support is available to help with work and money worries?

Worrying about money and work can add to the stress of living with cancer. Many workplaces have an employee assistance programme (EAP) which may offer counselling. This should still be available to you if you’re working from home or are on sick leave.

There are also things you can do yourself to cope with the emotional impact. Read more about looking after your mind and emotions.

If you want more advice you can speak to our work support service, Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm. Our dedicated work support specialists can help you to understand your rights at work.

Alternatively, you can ask your questions on the ask a Work Support Advisor forum on the Online Community.

See also

Help with the cost of living

Cancer stories

Macmillan's storytellers discuss common concerns about work and cancer. This includes returning to work and experiences from people working while caring.

In the video below, Cathy talks about the impact of cancer on work.

See also

Making decisions about work after treatment

Working while caring booklet

Other organisations who can help 

About our information

This information has been written, revised and edited by Macmillan's Digital Content Editor team and checked by Macmillan's Cancer Information team.

Learn more about our Digital Content Editors and how we produce our cancer information.


About the author

A white woman with short brown hair and glasses.

Ros Ayres