- Cancer can have a financial impact: Cancer can result in someone earning less while also having more expenses. This can cause additional hardship during what is already a worrying and stressful time.
- There are benefits and grants available: Employee eligibility will depend on their individual circumstances, but being aware of financial assistance options, and giving your employee information about them, can help significantly.
- Offer additional financial assistance: As an employer, you can help lessen the financial burden that an employee with cancer faces by providing financial assistance above and beyond what you are legally obligated to.
We often speak about the physical and emotional impact of cancer. However, more practically, it can also create a significant financial burden for patients and their families. Working is the main source of income for many people, and while people can and do still work if they have cancer, others might need to take extended leave, be unable to continue working full time or become too unwell to work at all. A reduction or loss of pay can create financial hardship in itself, without additional costs relating to cancer, such as transport to appointments, childcare, house modifications, mobility equipment and therapies.
If an employee has been diagnosed with cancer, you might be wondering what you can do to make a positive difference. As an employer, financial assistance is an important component of helping them to navigate their diagnosis, treatment and beyond. In this guide, we explore how you can provide financial assistance to employees with cancer, including resources you can signpost them to, your legal obligations and other policies you can implement.
What financial support is available to employees with cancer?
There are many government benefits that people with cancer can apply for if they need help with extra costs or have to stop working. Benefits have different eligibility criteria and vary in amount. As an employer, you should be aware of the benefits that are available to employees with cancer so that you can provide them with accurate information and details on how to apply.
Statutory Sick Pay (SSP)
An employee is entitled to Statutory Sick Pay if they earn an average of at least £123 a week and have been ill for at least 4 consecutive days. SSP equates to £109.40 a week and you can pay it for up to 28 weeks. Under applicable employment law, you cannot pay less than the statutory amount but can pay more according to your own company’s sick pay scheme.
Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
An employee can apply for Employment Support Allowance if they are under the state pension age. To be eligible, they must demonstrate that either they cannot work and need financial assistance, or they want to return to work but need support to do so. They must have also paid enough National Insurance contributions within the last two to threeyears.
Universal Credit (UC)
Universal Credit is a payment to help with living costs for those on a low income, who are out of work or who cannot work. To claim, an employee must live in the UK, be over 18 (although there are some exceptions for 16- and 17-year olds) but under state pension age, and have less than £16,000 total in money, savings and/or investments.
Personal Independence Payment (PIP)
Personal Independence Payment is a benefit for those who have problems with daily living or their mobility. Someone can apply if they are under state pension age, have had problems for three months and expect them to last for at least nine months. If someone has a terminal condition, however, such as late-stage cancer, they can apply using special rules. They don’t need to have had daily living or mobility problems for the last three months and the Department of Work and Pensions will process their claim quickly.
Employees may also be able to receive financial support in the form of a charity grant. The cancer charity Macmillan, for example, offers a one-off £350 payment to help with the extra costs of living with cancer. Disability Grants and Turn2us are useful search tools for helping people find grants applicable to them.
What financial assistance can employers provide employees with cancer?
Aside from paying SSP and signposting employees to information about government benefits and charity grants, you can provide financial assistance by updating policies and implementing additional employee benefits.
The key to ensuring such assistance is valuable is understanding the financial implications of having cancer alongside the other hardships that employees face due to their diagnosis.
Paid sick leave
Managing an employee who is off sick with cancer involves paying them SSP if they are eligible. However, SSP is often much less than an employee’s usual wage, which can leave them struggling to meet their usual outgoings, such as their mortgage and utility bills. This financial pressure can affect their mental wellbeing, adding to the emotions they are already dealing with due to their diagnosis and treatment.
Therefore, paying employees a sick leave amount that is more than the statutory payment of £109.40 a week can make a significant difference. How much extra you can pay and how long you can pay this for is likely to depend on the size of your business. You can also factor in things like employee length of service.
Private health coverage
While in the UK healthcare is generally free, it doesn’t always cover follow-up support like dietitians or menopause practitioners, or complementary and alternative medicine, such as acupuncture. There can also be long waits for NHS consultations and treatments, which can be worrying when dealing with cancer.
As an employer, you can provide financial assistance and support overall employee wellbeing by offering private health coverage. Doing so can enable employees to access timely private treatment that they would be unable to afford otherwise, thus reducing their financial burden and potentially their anxiety as well.
Lifestyle spending account (LSA)
This is a relatively new form of benefit that is emerging in workplaces in addition to or in place of more traditional healthcare incentives. An LSA is an account that employers contribute to for each employee, which an employee can then use according to their unique circumstances. An employee with cancer could use this fund to pay for ad-hoc childcare, for example, or specialised therapy and coaching.
Cancer can affect so many aspects of an employee’s life. They may feel too poorly to keep on top of household chores or walk their dog, but be unable to hire help. Or they may want to speak to a specialist but not have the money to afford appointments. You can support an employee who is off sick with cancer, who is undergoing treatment or who is adjusting to life in remission, by giving them access to on-demand assistance. This could be anything from a meal delivery service to a pet sitter.
This assistance could also be in the form of Perci Health, our innovative virtual care clinic for anyone impacted by cancer. Employees and their families can access a range of support types from the comfort of their own homes, including cancer dieticians, image advice and psychotherapy. Find out more today about how you can become an employer at the forefront of employee cancer care.
‘Statutory Sick Pay (SSP)’, gov.uk, April 2023, https://www.gov.uk/statutory-sick-pay/eligibility
‘Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)’, gov.uk, April 2023, https://www.gov.uk/employment-support-allowance/eligibility