Giving up work temporarily or permanently

If you decide not to work during treatment, you may want to think about whether you will return to work when treatment ends, or whether you will give up work for good.

It’s difficult to tell how much treatment will affect you. It is therefore important to make sure you go back to work gradually, if you can. Try not to stretch yourself too much physically or do too much at once. It might take time for you to recover. You may need to accept changes and be flexible.

If you decide to give up work permanently, you will need to make several legal and financial decisions. It’s important to think carefully about the financial implications of giving up working. You can discuss those issues with a financial adviser. You can also find information from HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) and Business Debtline.

Returning to work after treatment

It’s unlikely anyone will be able to tell you for sure what effect the cancer and its treatment will have on you. Many people find this hard to accept. If you’re not sure when you might be ready to get back to work, it’s okay to see how things go and to keep your options open. You may find returning to work helps you get back to normal.

There may be a temptation to push yourself too far, too quickly. For example, if you are a manual worker, perhaps a bricklayer or mechanic, you may be tempted to stretch yourself too far physically. Or if your work is office-based, you may feel as though you should work long hours in front of a computer to catch up with tasks you may have fallen behind with.

However, if you can, you should plan to return to work gradually. Try to decide what’s most important and just do those parts of your work until you feel stronger. Give yourself regular breaks – you can even schedule them into your diary as appointments.

If you’ve had treatment for a brain tumour, it will usually be at least a year before you will be allowed to drive again.

It helps to remember that your recovery may not always be straightforward. You may have some setbacks or your circumstances may change along the way. Try to remain flexible.

Looking for new work or a new job

If you’re looking for new work or a new job, you may wonder whether you have to tell new clients or employers that you have or have had cancer. In England, Scotland and Wales, the Equality Act 2010 means organisations should only ask questions about a candidate’s health (including whether the candidate has a disability) during the application or recruitment process in extremely limited situations (see below).

In Northern Ireland, employers aren’t prevented from asking job applicants about their health, but they are prevented from discriminating against applicants because of their disability.

An employer can ask you for information about your health after they have offered you a job. If, on the basis of this information, they then decide to withdraw the job offer, they will need to make sure the reason they are doing so isn’t discriminatory.

It’s still acceptable to ask questions about a person’s health during the application process for the following reasons:

  • To make sure they are not discriminating against anyone in their application process.
  • To conduct positive action (for example, for a company to improve their recruitment of people with disabilities).
  • To ask whether reasonable adjustments are needed for the application process.
  • To know whether the applicant will be able to do tasks that are important to the work.

Disability-related questions must not be used to discriminate against a disabled person. A potential client or employer is only allowed to ask questions about health or disability if they are necessary for the reasons listed above.

However, it’s important that you don’t mislead a potential client or employer. If you give false or incomplete information and this is found out at a later stage, it could put you in a difficult position.

If you are pressed for an answer about your health during the application or recruitment process, you may find it best to tell potential clients or employers about your cancer. However, this is entirely your decision. If you don’t get the work or job because you made the potential client or employer aware of your condition, then you may be able to bring a discrimination claim against them.

Many people with cancer don’t consider themselves to be disabled. If they are asked in general terms whether they consider themselves disabled they will say ‘no’. However, if your client or employer asks if you are disabled, you should say ‘yes’ for the purposes of the Equality Act and the Disability Discrimination Act (in Northern Ireland). This is because everyone with cancer is covered by these Acts and the term ‘disabled’ has a specific meaning under them.

Giving up your business for good

Some people decide to give up work completely when they are diagnosed with cancer. This allows them to focus on their health and other aspects of their lives, such as friends and family. If you decide to close your business, speak to a financial adviser and take your time to think through your options. Depending on your situation, you may be able to sell the business or transfer the ownership.

Other people may wish to continue their business, but it may start to fail despite their best efforts.

If you have a limited company which owes suppliers or lenders money that it cannot pay, it may be forced into insolvency.

An appointed person (a liquidator) will take control of your business and sell the assets in order to pay the debts (a process called winding up).

If you are a sole trader or part of a partnership, you can be forced into bankruptcy (called sequestration in Scotland).

If your business is struggling, you can get free confidential advice from Business Debtline. They cover all regions of the UK.

Closing down

If you know your business is failing, you may want to close it down yourself before you’re forced to. Even if your business is successful, you may still decide to close it down and look for another job or take early retirement. It may take months to close down a business fully.

You will need to think carefully about the effect this will have on your finances. Consider the money you will receive from other sources, such as a pension, savings, shares or benefits.

Write a plan that outlines everything you need to do to help protect your personal assets and reputation.

Your plan should include:

  • Collecting all money owed to you. You could offer a discount for immediate payment. Do this before you notify your customers or clients that you will be closing your business. You will find it difficult to recover debts later.
  • Selling any remaining stock – consider a clearance sale.
  • Telling your creditors. This includes suppliers, banks and anyone else you owe money to.
  • Telling your customers and dealing with outstanding obligations.

Return any money for products not delivered or services not rendered. You may be able to claim on your business or professional insurance if you can’t fulfil a contract.

  • Giving your landlord the required amount of notice to terminate your lease.
  • Giving notice to any employees and following regulations to ensure they are treated fairly.
  • Paying your company debts as far as possible – ask a financial adviser about the best way to do this to protect yourself.

You will also need to take some legal and financial steps.

For example, if you are a sole trader, you will have to inform HMRC straight away. This may also help your finances.

If your income will be lower, you may be able to reduce your tax payments.

There is a helpful fact sheet about what you should know about tax when you stop trading at

If you are trading as a limited company, the process of closing your business will depend on whether you can pay your company debts.

Visit for further guidance.

When your company is in the process of being wound up, it still must file and pay tax returns.

Help available

It’s important to speak to a financial adviser in order to follow the correct process according to whether you are a sole trader, a partner in a business or a director of a limited company.

If you are registered for VAT or employ staff, you will have extra responsibilities. JobCentre Plus can advise you if you need to make redundancies. More information is on if you are in England, Scotland, or Wales. In Northern Ireland, go to or contact the Labour Relations Agency (

You can also look at the HMRC website and, in particular,

There is also useful information on for businesses in Northern Ireland.

It’s a good idea to ask a professional, such as an accountant, to guide you.

Your feelings

Deciding to give up your business is a big step. If work has been a major focus in your life, it can be difficult to adjust. It may help to talk to someone about your feelings. This may be another family member or a friend. Some people find it easier to talk to a counsellor. You may be able to contact a counsellor through the hospital, your GP, or a cancer support group.

Back to If you're self-employed

Self-employment and cancer

If you’re self-employed you may worry about work and money during your cancer treatment. Support is available to help you cope financially and emotionally.

Working during treatment

Deciding whether to carry on working during treatment is a difficult decision. It depends on individual circumstances.

Making treatment decisions

When you’re self-employed, you may have particular questions about treatment decisions and how they could impact on your work.

Managing your workload

Cancer treatment can have an impact on the way you run your business. You may need to reorganise your activities to manage your workload.

Managing your finances

If you’re self-employed and have had to reduce your work activity, you may worry about your professional and personal finances. Support is available to help you cope with financial issues.