5 mins. read

Working and terminal cancer

Working with terminal cancer Perci Health

Key takeaways

  • You are protected by law: Cancer is considered a disability by the Equality Act 2010, meaning you can’t be discriminated against due to your diagnosis.
  • When you decide to stop working: Be it to spend time with family or because you are too poorly, it’s normal to find it difficult to adjust when you leave work. Talking to someone about how you feel might help during the transition.
  • You may be able to withdraw your pension early: Your workplace may have an ill-health policy that will allow you to take your pension in one lump sum. However, you should seek independent advice to fully understand your options.

For many people, work is a significant part of their lives. Therefore, after receiving a terminal cancer diagnosis, it’s natural if you are wondering what it means for your employment. You might be wondering whether you have to keep working or what the financial implications of leaving work are.

Here at Perci Health, we have put together a guide to help you understand what your options are and what rights you have when it comes to working and terminal cancer.

Do I have to keep working if I receive a terminal diagnosis?

You don’t have to keep working if you receive a terminal cancer diagnosis and whether you choose to do so is a personal choice. You might want to continue working to keep occupied or because you find your job fulfilling. There may also be financial considerations that impact your decision. Alternatively, you might want to leave your role to spend time with family or because you no longer feel physically well enough to continue working.

Before deciding, it may be helpful to speak to the HR advisor or an independent advisor. Your workplace may be able to offer you reduced hours or changes to your role so that you can continue to work part-time for example. An independent advisor will also be able to give you information about how different paths will impact your pension, employment benefits and any other financial benefits you receive.

Do I have to tell my employer about my terminal diagnosis?

You don’t have to tell your employer that your cancer is terminal, except if required to by legislation or due to your profession. But, if you intend to keep on working, there can be benefits to letting them know.

By law, cancer is considered a disability and, therefore, your employer must make reasonable adjustments that will help you to continue to work if that’s what you wish to do. What is considered a reasonable adjustment will depend on your employer and your role. It could be allowing you to sit on a chair when you previously used to stand to do your work or giving you the option to work from home.

Letting people at work know about your terminal diagnosis can also open your support circle to include your managers and co-workers.

How does it impact my pay and pension?

If you continue working and still do your normal number of hours, there should be no change to the pay you receive. However, if the adjustments made to your role include changing your schedule to part-time work, then you will receive a pro-rata rate of pay.

If you take temporary leave from work for any reason, the pay you receive will depend on your employer’s policies. You may receive full or partial pay or receive statutory sick pay. Speak to your HR department or check your employment documents for more clarity.

If you have previously paid into a pension scheme or still do so, you may be able to withdraw your funds early. This is commonly known as an ill-health policy and your employer’s HR department, or pension provider should be able to tell you more.

With a terminal diagnosis, you might be able to withdraw your pension in one lump sum. To ensure receiving your pension early is the right choice for you, it is a good idea to speak to an independent advisor. They will be able to tell you if taking your pension early or in one lump sum will affect any other benefits you receive.

Can I take sick leave?

If you are employed but too ill to continue working, you may be entitled to take sick leave and receive sick pay. Depending on your role, how long you have been employed by the company, and their policies, you may receive full or partial pay for a period of your sick leave. If your employer does not have their own sick pay scheme, you may still be entitled to Statutory Sick Pay (SSP).

SSP can be paid for up to 28 weeks and is £99.35 a week. For long-term sick leave that will go beyond the 28-week limit for SSP, your employer can complete an SSP1 form which may allow you to apply for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) before your SSP period runs out.

Can my employer make me redundant if I have terminal cancer?

Your employer cannot fire you or make you redundant because of your diagnosis. This would be considered discrimination under the Equality Act 2010. They also cannot push you to resign or retire. However, if they are unable to make necessary adjustments for you to continue working, then they may be able to dismiss you. They can also terminate your employment for other reasons such as gross misconduct.

If you do find yourself in a situation where your role is at risk, your employer should be following the proper process as outlined by their company policies. If at any point, you feel you aren’t being treated fairly, you can contact an independent agency, such as Citizens Advice or Acas, for advice.

If you’d like support from cancer specialists, we are here to help. We provide a range of support types from friendly professionals to anyone who has been impacted by cancer.