Benefits and work

There is financial support available from the goverment if you are working during treatment or returning to work.

This page will help you understand what you're entitled to and how Maggie's can help.

Can you claim?

You may be entitled to benefits when you're working if:

  • Cancer and it's treatment affects your health
  • You're caring for someone
  • You're on a low or temporarily reduced income

You can make a claim regardless of how much you earn or what savings you have.

What benefits can you claim?

The benefits you can claim when you're working will relate to your individual circumstances and it's easy to miss out on money you're entitled to.

You can get individual advice about your situation from one of our experienced Benefits Advisors at your nearest Maggie's centre.

Types of benefit you can claim when you work

You may be eligible to claim for more than one benefit at the same time.

  • Statutory Sick Pay (SSP)
  • Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
  • Personal Independence Payment (PIP)
  • Working Tax Credit (WTC) for all existing tax credit claims
  • Universal Credit (UC)
  • Other benefits

Statutory Sick Pay (SSP)

If you are unable to work then you can claim Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) from your employer.

Your GP will give you a Fitness for Work Certificate that you will need to support your claim.

When claiming SSP you are considered off sick and cannot work. 

You can still keep in regular contact with work, for example, by arranging ‘keeping in touch days’ or joining training days if you are fit enough.

Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)

Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) is an alternative benefit if you don't qualify for Statutory Sick Pay (SSP).

You may be entitled to claim ESA if:

  • You are currently unemployed
  • You are self-employed
  • You are employed not entitled for SSP
  • Your SSP has run out

ESA is not means-tested so it's not affected by other income or savings. 

You must have paid, or been credited with, National Insurance contributions within the last three years to claim.

You are allowed to do a certain amount of work while claiming ESA. You can work up to 16 hours and earn up to £140 a week. This is referred to as 'permitted work'.

Personal Independence Payment (PIP) and work

PIP is an extra benefit if you have difficulties with daily living activities and getting around. It can be a really helpful benefit to claim if you're working.

  • You can claim on top of any other income or benefits
  • It doesn't matter if you have any other income or savings
  • You can claim whether you work or not
  • You can claim at any point from when you start experiencing long-term difficulties
  • When you return to work, you can continue to receive PIP, either temporarily or longer term
  • The amount of PIP you can claim may change over time depending on your needs

Your claim is regularly reviewed by the Disability and Carers Service (part of the DWP). You may need less support because your health has improved or you may need additional support due to different challenges being back at work.

If you are in Scotland, PIP will be changing to Disability Assistance in 2021.

Working Tax Credit (WTC)

Working Tax Credit (WTC) is a benefit that tops up low or temporarily reduced income from earnings. 

For most new claims, WTC has now been replaced by Universal Credit (UC) but existing claims are still active.

You can switch to Universal Credit instead but we recommend you seek advice about what is best for your situation long-term because once you've changed you cannot go back. Find your nearest Maggie's centre to speak to a Benefits Advisor.

If you have an existing claim:

  • You can receive your WTC while off sick for a period of 28 weeks at a time
  • You can have more than one period of sickness
  • If you claim PIP as well, this may increase the amount of WTC you can claim and may also reduce the hours you need to work in order to qualify

Universal Credit (UC) and work

Universal Credit (UC) is a means-tested benefit available to everyone under pension age.

It combines help with living costs and rent whether you're in work or not.

If you work:

  • It doesn't matter how many hours you work
  • The amount of UC you get automatically adjusts each month according to your earnings and other income
  • Some of your earnings may be ignored if you are considered to have 'limited capability to work' or have children
  • It's possible to claim UC on top of other benefits but it may not be straightforward 
  • You might have a choice between UC and WTC but every situation is different

If you're thinking about switching to UC from an existing benefit, or been asked to by Jobcentre Plus, it's especially important to get independent advice about whether it's right for you.

Speak to a Benefits advisor at your nearest Maggie's centre.

Other benefits when you work

Other benefits to help with bills and costs when you work include:

  • Council tax
  • Help with health costs
  • Free school meals
  • Housing benefit (if not claiming UC)

You might automatically qualify for these benefits but, if you're working, it may depend on your earnings.

Maggie's can help with money worries

Understanding which benefits might apply to you and how to claim can feel like navigating through a maze – but we're here to help.

You can get individual advice about your situation from one of our experienced Benefits Advisors at your nearest Maggie's centre.

A Maggie’s Benefits Advisor can help you to:

  • understand what benefits or other support applies to you if you have cancer or are caring for someone who does
  • fill out application forms
  • discuss issues that come up as you go through the claims process or if your circumstances change over time.

Last review: Jun 2020 | Next review: Sep 2023

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