Support from your work

You can get financial help if cancer affects your ability to work:

  • You can claim Statutory Sick Pay if you are off work for at least 4 days in a row and have been earning at least £118 a week for the past 8 weeks. Your employer will pay this for up to 28 weeks of sickness.
  • You may also be able to get occupational or company sick pay. Check your contract or ask your HR department about this.
  • If you are self-employed, you may still qualify for benefits, such as Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) or Tax Credits.
  • If you have to give up work, you may be entitled to a tax refund.

In England, Scotland and Wales, the Equality Act 2010 protects your employment rights if you have or have had cancer. In Northern Ireland, the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 protects you. These laws will protect you if your employer discriminates you because of your illness.

Sick pay

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

  • Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) – money that most workers 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. It may give you more money by adding an extra amount to SSP. Some employers pay staff in full for a certain amount of sick days.

Your employer will pay you SSP for up to 28 weeks. The weekly amount is currently £94.25.

You can claim if you:

  • are off work sick for 4 days in a row or more (including non-working days)
  • have been earning £118 or more a week for the past 8 weeks.

Before your SSP is due to end, your employer should give you a form called SSP1. This form will tell you when the last payment will be. You will need this form if you want to apply for a benefit called Employment and Support Allowance.

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

If you are 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 if your income decreases. For example, if your income decreases, you may be able to get:

We have more information about self-employment and cancer, which you may find helpful. Or, you can speak to a Macmillan welfare rights adviser.

Employment rights

Your employer should try to support you at work. They should make reasonable changes to help you do your job during and after cancer treatment.

There are laws that protect you from being treated unfairly at work because of cancer. These are:

  • the Equality Act 2010 in England, Scotland and Wales
  • the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 in Northern Ireland.

These laws do not just protect employees. They also protect people who are applying for jobs and, in some cases, people who are self-employed. Carers are also protected from some types of discrimination.

We have more information about your rights at work when you are affected by cancer.

Access to Work

You may need help at work even after your employer has made reasonable changes. If this is the case, you can contact Access to Work. This is a government programme. It provides advice and practical support if you have a long-term health condition that affects the way you do your job. This might include help with extra costs caused by your health condition.

Access to Work may pay for:

  • special aids and equipment needed in the workplace 
  • travel to and from work if you cannot use public transport
  • a support worker to help you at work.

In England, Scotland and Wales, you can apply for Access to Work online or over the phone. You can also ask to speak to your work coach or a disability employment adviser at your local Jobcentre Plus.

In Northern Ireland, you can speak to an employment service adviser at your local Jobs and Benefits or Social Security office or Job Centre.

Income tax refund

You may be able to get a tax refund if you give up work, or if your income decreases. It is also worth checking whether you are still paying the correct amount of tax if your situation changes.

Your employer may be able to organise this. You can also apply for a tax refund online or contact HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) on 0300 200 3300.

Back to If you are unable to work or on a low income

Employment and Support Allowance

Employment and Support Allowance is a benefit for people under retirement age who cannot work because of illness or disability.

Universal Credit

Universal Credit is a payment for people who are on a low income or out of work.

Jobseeker’s Allowance

Jobseeker’s Allowance can give you a weekly income if you are unemployed and looking for work.