Your income

Work is the main source of income for many people, but if you have cancer, or are a carer, you may need to take time off. However your wages won’t necessarily stop completely because everyone has rights at work. There are laws that mean your employer should help and support you to do your job during and after cancer treatment.

Living with cancer may mean you’re eligible for benefits. For example if you can’t work, have a low income or have care or mobility needs.

Income could also come from health insurance. Some types pay you a regular income and others pay a lump sum. You may also be able to get a terminal illness benefit.

A pension could be a source of your income. This could be a state pension or a personal or occupational pension. You may be able to claim this early if you’re illness is permanent.

You may be eligible for a grant from Macmillan or another organisation. Grants are usually one off payments and don’t need to be repaid.

Sources of income

An important part of managing your everyday finances is making sure you have enough money coming in to cover your expenses.

This money could come from:

  • work
  • benefits
  • savings or investments
  • insurance policies
  • pensions
  • grants.

This page looks at each of these options in more detail.


Work is the main source of income for many people. But if you’re living with cancer, you may need to take time off. This could be for medical appointments, having or recovering from treatment, or coping with emotional stress or side effects such as tiredness. If you’re caring for someone with cancer, you may need time off work too.

Your income may drop if you take time off, but everyone has certain rights at work, so your earnings won’t necessarily stop completely. If you stop working or your earnings drop, this may lead to a situation where you pay too much tax and may be able to claim a refund (tax rebate).

Your rights at work

If you have cancer and are in paid employment, your employer should help and support you to do your job during and after cancer treatment. Your employer must make reasonable adjustments so that you’re not at a disadvantage to other employees. Reasonable adjustments could include working from home or letting you work flexible hours.

If you’re a carer, you also have certain rights at work. A carer is someone who provides unpaid support to a partner, near relative or someone they live with, who could not manage without this help. Carers have the right to a reasonable amount of unpaid time off work to look after dependants in an emergency. Carers also have the right to request flexible working hours.

Legislation protects you from being treated unfairly at work because of cancer. If you live in England, Scotland or Wales, the Equality Act 2010 protects you. The Disability Discrimination Act 1995 and its extension, the Disability Discrimination Order of 2006, protect you if you live in Northern Ireland. Carers are also protected from discrimination under these acts.


When you have cancer, it can change your situation. This may mean you are able to get benefit payments. We have lots of information about the different benefits you may be able to access, whether:

Protecting your right to state benefits

Your entitlement to some state benefits (contributory benefits) depends on how much National Insurance (NI) you’ve paid or been credited with. State Pension and bereavement benefits are examples of contributory state benefits.

There may be times when you’re not paying National Insurance because you’re off work sick or are claiming state benefits for illness or disability. In these situations, you usually continue to get National Insurance credits. These cover the contributions you were unable to pay and protect your entitlement to contributory state benefits.

However, sometimes you may have a gap in your National Insurance record. For example if:

  • You’re not paying National Insurance because you work but are earning less than £112 a week in 2016–17 (unless you’re also claiming benefits such as Working Tax Credit or Universal Credit because your income is low – in that case, you’ll still get National Insurance credits).
  • You no longer qualify for sickness and disability benefits but decide to take an extended, unpaid break from working.
  • You take early retirement and you’ve not yet reached State Pension age.

If you have a gap in your National Insurance contributions, you could choose to pay voluntary contributions to plug the gap and protect your State Pension and bereavement benefits. But working out whether this is worth doing is complicated, because you can have quite large gaps without any loss of pension.

For advice on how to pay voluntary national insurance contributions and finding out whether it would be worthwhile, contact the HM Revenue and Customs National Insurance Helpline on 0300 200 3500 or textphone 0300 200 3519.

We have more information about state benefits. You can also get benefits advice from our welfare rights advisers by calling the Macmillan Support Line on 0808 808 00 00.


You may have savings set aside to cover the unexpected. If your income is affected by cancer, now may be a good time to use those savings to either replace lost income or meet extra expenses.

If you have a large amount in your savings or investments, you may be able to set them up so they pay out regularly over time and provide you with a steady income.

Our financial guides can give you information about investing to provide an income.


A pension is a long-term savings plan that aims to help you save money for when you are older and want to retire. You can claim your State Pension when you reach State Pension age. If you have a personal or occupational pension, you might be able to access it early.

We have lots more information about pensions, and the changes to the pension system that were made in April 2015. You can also read more about the different types of pension schemes:

Macmillan grants

Macmillan provides small, mostly one-off grants, to help people pay expenses that are from, or are associated with, their cancer. Read more detailed information about Macmillan Grants.

Grants from other organisations

There are other grants available from a variety of sources, including occupational funds, utility companies (gas, electricity and water companies) and charities. For more information, contact a local welfare rights adviser or our cancer support specialists on 0808 808 00 00.

CLIC Sargent provides one-off grants to children and young people with cancer and their families. These can be used to help you meet the sudden extra costs that a cancer diagnosis can bring. They also have other grants that you may be entitled to. Applications need to be made through a CLIC Sargent social worker. For more information, call 0300 330 0803.

Turn2us helps people find specific charities that may be able to offer financial assistance. Visit Turn2us or call 0808 802 2000.

The Guide to Grants for Individuals in Need 2016/17 gives details of all the trusts and organisations that provide financial support to people in the UK. You can find a copy in most local libraries.

Next steps for managing your income

  • If you’ve stopped working or your earnings have dropped, check if you can claim a tax rebate, or benefits.
  • Check any insurance or pensions policies you have. Could they be an extra source of income at this time?
  • Look into grants from Macmillan or other organisations. Remember you need to apply for Macmillan Grants through a health and social care professional.

Back to Managing your money day to day

Planning your budget

Having a weekly or monthly budget can help you manage your day-to-day finances.


Make sure you’ve considered other options before borrowing money. Choose the cheapest type of borrowing and know how you’ll make repayments.


It’s important to make sure you’re paying the right tax. This includes checking if you are owed a tax rebate.