Stopping work or changing your pension

You may have to take time off work, reduce your hours, or stop working when you have cancer. This could affect your pension. 

If you are getting Statutory Sick Pay (SSP), you could continue to pay into your pension as normal, but it may not pay enough to cover your pension contributions. If you reduce your hours, your payments towards your pension may be lower. This may mean the final pension amount will be smaller. 

However, you may have extra benefits or insurance with your pension policy that could help you pay your contributions if you cannot work. Talk to your employer, HR department or pension scheme manager for more information about your situation.

You might want to change your pension if you move jobs or want a better scheme. You may also want to bring all your pensions together, which is called pension consolidation. It is a good idea to get financial advice before transferring your pensions. 

If you have lost track of your pensions, the free Pension Tracing Service can help you find them. Visit findpensioncontacts.service.gov.uk

Reducing your hours or stopping work

Because of cancer or its treatment, you may have to:

  • take time off work
  • reduce your hours
  • stop work.

If you are employed and use your holiday allowance to take time off, your pension is not affected.

If you are unable to use your holiday allowance, there are different ways your pension could be affected:

  • If you are getting sick pay, you could continue to pay into your pension as normal, but this is not always the case. Employers have different sick pay schemes. The legal minimum for employers to pay is Statutory Sick Pay (SSP). This is currently £92.05 a week, for up to 28 weeks. There are different rules for agricultural workers. It may not pay enough to cover your pension contributions. But some employers offer more generous sick pay in addition to SSP. This is called occupational sick pay, or company sick pay.
  • If you reduce your working hours and are paid less, this will probably reduce your payments towards your pension.
  • If you stop working and stop paying money into your pension, your final pension will be smaller.

In any of these situations, exactly what happens depends on your work contract and the rules of the pension scheme. To check whether your pension will be affected by time off or reduced hours, talk to:

  • your employer
  • the human resources (HR) department at work
  • the pension scheme manager.

It is also worth checking whether you have any extra benefits with your pension policy. They could help you keep up your pension contributions.

When you started your pension, you may have bought a type of insurance that would keep building your pension if you cannot work. This may be called:

  • a pension-contribution protection benefit
  • a waiver of contribution benefit
  • a waiver of premium benefit.

Talk to the scheme provider if you want to check this.

We have more information about managing work and cancer.

We also have financial guides who can help you deal with your money worries. Call our support line on 0808 808 00 00 to speak to a financial guide or benefits adviser.


Changing and tracing pensions

Changing pensions

You may want to change your pension scheme if:

  • you get a new job
  • you want to move your pension (transfer it) to a better scheme
  • you have several pensions, perhaps from different jobs, and want to bring them together – this is called pension consolidation.

If you want to transfer your pension, speak to your current pension provider to find out whether this is possible. You should also speak to the provider you want to transfer to, as you may have to pay charges or fees on the transfer. It is also important to think about where the money will be invested and any risks involved.

You need to get financial advice before transferring your pension if:

  • you have a defined benefit scheme worth £30,000 or more
  • you have a defined contribution scheme worth £30,000 or more, and it comes with certain guarantees about what you will get when you retire.

This is to make sure you understand the benefits you are giving up.

The Pensions Advisory Service can give you free, impartial information about transferring and consolidating pensions.

Leaving a job

If you leave a job that you had a workplace pension with, the pension you built up continues to belong to you. There are options for what to do with it. This could include leaving the pension where it is until you can access it, or transferring it to a new scheme. The options available may depend on how long you have been in the new scheme and when you choose to change jobs.

With a defined contribution scheme, it may be possible to keep paying into the pension. But your previous employer will no longer pay into it.

You may decide that you are not well enough to work and choose to take ill-health early retirement. You may be able to access your pension early. In some cases, it may be better to keep your pension, for example if you have a terminal diagnosis.

If you are thinking of leaving your job because of your cancer diagnosis, you should get advice so you can understand all your options. It may help to speak to our specialists on the Macmillan Support Line. Call 0808 808 00 00.

Tracing pensions

The Pension Tracing Service can help if:

  • you have lost track of pensions you used to pay into
  • you do not know the details of the schemes you used to pay into.

It is a free service that can find lost pensions for you. It can also give you details of the pension provider. But it cannot tell you how much the pension is worth.

Back to Pensions

Understanding pensions

There are different pension schemes available, including the State Pension that is paid by the government and a private pension.

Accessing your pension

There are different ways of accessing your pension. This depends on the type of pension you have and your illness.

Pensions advice and guidance

You can get free guidance from our financial guidance team, The Pensions Advisory Service, Citizens Advice and Pension Wise, or you can pay for a financial adviser.