Sick pay and cancer – are you counting the cost?

New briefing lifts the lid on the financial difficulty working people face when their sick pay doesn’t pay the bills. 

Webpage last updated on: 23rd April 2024

Safe sick pay campaign

A new analysis of the UK’s statutory sick pay arrangements has prompted calls from cancer and health charity CEOs for political parties to back improvements to statutory sick pay; as an estimated 250,000 workers* living with cancer have been left without sufficient income to cover essential bills like rent and heating.  

Leukaemia Care is one of 10 organisations spearheading a joint effort by cancer and health charities to tackle the UK’s currently inadequate ‘Statutory Sick Pay’ arrangement, as a new policy briefing sheds light on the severe impact thousands of people only eligible for SSP face if they are unlucky enough to fall ill. Our previous work, such as the Leukaemia Levy campaign, has shown how financial changes after diagnosis makes a hard time even more challenging for leukaemia patients.  

The call comes as workers with a cancer diagnosis shared stories of the impact of surviving on the UK’s very low legal minimum and the personal difficulties they had faced, they included:

  • Tony Pullen, a leukaemia patient who declared bankruptcy due to sick pay being insufficient to cover the bills. You can read the full story of Tony’s financial struggles after diagnosis
  • Clare, a Hodgkin’s lymphoma survivor who reported working from her hospital bed in between rounds of in-patient chemotherapy 

Read the briefing

The briefing estimates that of 127,000 people of working age diagnosed with cancer each year, 38,000 face a disastrous hit to their income, with the total number living with cancer who have been impacted estimated as at least 250,000 people*. They are able to access just £116.75 a week statutory sick pay, or no sick pay at all if they work multiple jobs below the £130 a week earnings threshold.  

The Centre for Research in Social Policy, Loughborough University calculated that the income loss for people taking time off for cancer treatment in SSP could rise to tens of thousands of pounds in the worst case scenario.  

This would put a financially comfortable couple on two median salaries* into significant financial difficulty, far below the minimum income standard (MIS) needed for a decent quality of life.  
Colin Dyer, CEO of Leukaemia Care, said of the campaign:

“People who are diagnosed with leukaemia can need some of the longest times off work, due to the types of treatment that patients receive. In particular, stem cell transplantation can leave patients unable to work for a year or more. We urge the Government and any future Governments to change the level of statutory sick pay that people with cancer receive, as also recommended by the recent report from the Work and Pensions Committee. We must ensure that those who are affected by cancer during their working life are not left with the additional emotional and practical burden which a low income creates. Importantly, this can cause harm to not only the person diagnosed with cancer, but all their loved ones around them.”

What you can do:

The Safe Sick Pay campaign is encouraging people to write to their MPs. Anyone interested in finding out how they could join like minded people interested in meeting their MP can sign up to enquire how to do so by clicking the button below.

Take action

Support services

If you or a loved one needs advice or support regarding your diagnosis, including learning more about your treatment options, please get in touch. You can call our free helpline on 08088 010 444 and speak to one of our nurses. Alternatively, you can send a message to our team via WhatsApp on 07500 068 065 (services available Monday to Friday, 9am – 5pm).

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