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A guide to sick pay for employees with cancer

Sick pay for employee with cancer Perci Health

Key takeaways

  • Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) is mandatory: For eligible employees, your employer will pay you £109.40 a week for up to 28 weeks.
  • Employers may offer Occupational Sick Pay: Many workplaces have their own sick pay policies which provide a higher rate of sick pay than SSP.
  • Other government support is available: There are other forms of financial assistance, such as ESA, Universal Credit and PIP, that you can apply for if you are not eligible for SSP or you have received the maximum amount.

Receiving a cancer diagnosis is a life-altering event that can bring with it not only physical and emotional challenges but also financial anxiety. If you’re an employee, it’s understandable if you worry about how your diagnosis might affect your income and the financial implications of absence from work. Most employees are aware of sick pay but the entitlement to sick pay when you have cancer and the amount you can receive is often confusing.

This guide discusses the key forms of financial assistance for employees with cancer. It begins by examining Statutory Sick Pay and Occupational Sick Pay for employees with cancer, which are the two primary types of financial support employers offer. It also discusses options for government-provided assistance, including Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), Universal Credit, and Personal Independence Payment (PIP). For each of these financial support options, we explain the eligibility criteria and provide details on the amount of assistance available.

Statutory Sick Pay (SSP)

Statutory Sick Pay, commonly referred to as SSP, is a mandatory financial support system in the United Kingdom. It provides financial assistance to employees who are unable to work due to illness, including cancer. Your employer pays SSP in the same way you receive your wages, such as weekly or monthly, for up to 28 weeks.

Eligibility criteria for SSP

As of October 2023, to qualify for Statutory Sick Pay you must:

  • Be an employee (which includes agency workers) and have done some work for your employer
  • Have average earnings that meet the Lower Earnings Limit of £123
  • Have been ill for at least four days in a row, including non-working days such as weekends and public holidays

You will not qualify for SSP if you have already received the maximum amount or are in receipt of Statutory Maternity Pay. You will also no longer be eligible if you have a continuous series of linked periods of sickness lasting more than three years. If you are off work for more than seven days, you must give your employer a fit note, also known as a sick note, from a healthcare professional.

How much SSP will you get?

Employees who are eligible for Statutory Sick Pay will receive SSP for all the days they are sick, excluding the first three unless they received SSP within the previous eight weeks, and that already included the three-day exclusion period.

Statutory Sick Pay is currently £109.40 a week and your employer cannot pay you less than this, but SSP is subject to tax and National Insurance deductions. If you have more than one job, you may receive SSP from each employer.

Occupational Sick Pay

Many employers offer Occupational Sick Pay, also known as contractual sick pay. Occupational Sick Pay is not mandatory and is at the discretion of the employer. This form of sick pay differs from employer to employer but is normally higher than the statutory amount employers must pay. If your employer provides Occupational Sick Pay, SSP will usually count toward it.

Eligibility for Occupational Sick Pay

The eligibility criteria for Occupational Sick Pay can vary significantly from one employer to another. Typically, you will need to:

  • Be an employee
  • Have been with your current employer for a specified length of time
  • Meet any other criteria outlined in your employment contract or company policies

Being an employee diagnosed with cancer may automatically make you eligible for Occupational Sick Pay but it depends on your employer’s policies. One employer may pay the full amount of their employee’s wage for the same length as they receive SSP. Another may pay full wages for six weeks and then drop this to SSP. Transport for London, for example, normally pays sick pay for a maximum of one year, with six months at full pay and six months at half pay.

How much Occupational Sick Pay will you get?

The amount and duration of Occupational Sick Pay you receive will depend on your employment contract. Many employers offer full or partial pay for a specified period, which can be several weeks, months or even years. You can find information about your workplace’s Occupational Sick Pay in your employment contract or by consulting your employer’s HR department.

Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)

Aside from sick pay for employees with cancer, there are other forms of financial support that you may be eligible for. Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), for instance, is a government-provided benefit for individuals who have limited capability for work due to a health condition or disability, including cancer. It provides financial assistance for those who do not qualify for SSP or who have exhausted their SSP entitlement. If your cancer is terminal, you can apply for ESA under special rules that fast-track the application process.

Eligibility for ESA

To be eligible for ESA, you must:

  • Be aged 16 to 65
  • Have an illness or disability that affects how much you can work
  • Have worked as an employee or been self-employed
  • Have paid enough National Insurance contributions, usually within the last two to three years
  • Pass a Work Capability Assessment (WCA) to determine the level of support you are entitled to

How much ESA will you get?

How much ESA you’ll be eligible for depends on the stage of your application and takes into consideration your age and whether you’re able to return to work in the future. Receiving a private pension and household income and savings of £6,000 or more will also affect how much you can get.

While your ESA claim is under assessment, you’ll usually get up to £67.20 a week if you’re aged under 25 and up to £84.80 a week if you’re aged 25 or over. After assessment, you’ll be placed into one of two groups. If you’re able to get back into work in the future, you’ll be put into the work-related activity group. Alternatively, you’ll be put into the support group. If you’re in the work-related activity group, you’ll receive ESA of up to £84.80 a week. If in the support group, you’ll receive up to £129.50 a week.

Universal Credit (UC)

Universal Credit is a means-tested benefit provided by the UK government. It provides financial support for individuals and families on a low income, including those who are unable to work due to illness or disability, such as cancer. As with ESA, individuals with terminal cancer can apply for Universal Credit under special rules.

Eligibility for Universal Credit

You may be eligible for Universal Credit if you have cancer and:

  • Cannot work due to your health
  • Are over the age of 18 but under the State Pension age
  • You and your partner have less than £16,000 in savings

How much Universal Credit will I get?

The amount of Universal Credit you receive will depend on your specific circumstances, such as your income, savings and housing costs. For individuals with health conditions like cancer, there are additional elements like the Limited Capability for Work or Work-Related Activity Element, which can increase your entitlement.

For example, if you’re single and over the age of 25, the monthly current standard allowance is £368.74. However, if you have a child, you’ll get an extra £315 per month if your child was born before the 6th of April 2017 or £269.58 if born after this date. If your cancer symptoms or treatment side-effects mean you have a limited capability for work or work-related activities, then you can get a further £390.06 a month on top.

Personal Independence Payment (PIP)

Personal Independence Payment (PIP) is a non-means-tested, tax-free benefit intended to help individuals with health conditions or disabilities meet the extra costs associated with daily living. It is available to those aged 16 to State Pension age.

Eligibility for PIP

To be eligible for PIP, you must:

  • Have a health condition or disability that causes difficulties with daily living or mobility
  • Have had these difficulties for at least three months (with expectations to continue for at least nine months)

How much PIP will I get?

If eligible, how much PIP you will receive depends on how much your cancer affects your ability to do everyday activities (daily living) and your mobility.

The daily living portion of PIP equates to £68.10 on the lower weekly rate and £101.75 on the higher weekly rate. The mobility portion of PIP amounts to £26.90 on the lower weekly rate and £71.00 on the higher weekly rate.

Sick pay for employees with cancer

Managing an employee off sick with cancer takes a great deal of empathy and a comprehensive knowledge of cancer and UK employment law. Employers have a legal obligation to ensure that employees with cancer receive the sick pay they are entitled to and should also inform employees of any additional financial support they can apply for. Where an employee is not eligible for SSP or they have received the maximum amount, employers should assist employees in claiming employee benefits by completing relevant documentation such as the SSP1 form.

It is also good practice to support employees with cancer in other ways. This may include signposting them to additional resources or providing other benefits that contribute to their financial, mental and physical wellbeing.

Perci Health is an innovative digital platform that connects those affected by cancer with specialists whenever they need it most. By creating an account, they have a multidisciplinary cancer care team at their fingertips and can book on-demand appointments when they need them. If you’re an employer that wants to offer an invaluable benefit to your staff, find out more about our workplace support for employees with cancer.


‘Occupational and Statutory Sick Pay’, mariecurie.org.uk, October 2023, https://www.mariecurie.org.uk/help/support/benefits-entitlements/other-support/sick-pay

‘Statutory Sick Pay (SSP)’, gov.uk, October 2023, https://www.gov.uk/statutory-sick-pay

‘Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)’, gov.uk, October 2023, https://www.gov.uk/employment-support-allowance

‘Universal Credit’, macmillan.org.uk, October 2023, https://www.macmillan.org.uk/cancer-information-and-support/impacts-of-cancer/benefits-and-financial-support/universal-credit

‘Universal Credit’, gov.uk, October 2023, https://www.gov.uk/universal-credit

‘Personal Independence Payment’, macmillan.org.uk, October 2023, https://www.macmillan.org.uk/cancer-information-and-support/impacts-of-cancer/benefits-and-financial-support/personal-independence-payment

‘Guidance on company sick pay scheme’, foi.tfl.gov.uk, October 2023, https://foi.tfl.gov.uk/FOI-3847-1920/Guidance%20on%20company%20sick%20pay.pdf