Money Wellness
Illustration of a cancer patient with their head in their hands on a sofa worrying about money
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calendar icon23 Apr 2024

Inadequate sick pay hurting cancer patients

A group of cancer and health charities are calling on political parties to back improvements to the UK’s statutory sick pay (SSP).

Research by the Safe Sick Pay campaign reveals around 250,000 people forced to take time off work to undergo cancer treatment have been unable to pay essential bills due to the drop in their income.

Current SSP rate

SSP is currently worth £116.75 a week for up to 28 weeks and is paid from the fourth consecutive day of illness. Those who work multiple jobs each bringing in less than £130 a week don't qualify.

Disastrous hit to income

The campaign claims, of the 127,000 working-age individuals who are diagnosed with cancer each year, 38,000 face a disastrous hit to their income.

The cost for people on SSP of taking time off for cancer treatment can rise to tens of thousands of pounds in the most severe cases, according to the Centre for Research in Social Policy at Loughborough University.

This would see a financially comfortable couple on two average salaries trying to survive on an amount far below the minimum income standard considered essential for a decent quality of life.

'I nearly went bankrupt'

When Alan Barton was diagnosed with stage-three bowel cancer, he had to take four months off. An engineer with 40 years’ experience, Alan had worked since he was 16 and always paid his taxes. But when he received his diagnosis, he’d been with his current company for about a year so was only entitled to SSP.

He explained:

“I went from a healthy salary to surviving on what amounted to around £3 an hour.

“What I got in sick pay each month didn’t even cover one-third of my £1,200-a-month rent.

“Things got so bad I nearly went bankrupt.”

Time for a change

The Safe Sick Pay campaign is calling for:

  • the SSP rate to be increased
  • SSP to be made available from the first day of sickness
  • the earnings threshold for SSP to be abolished
  • benefits to be sufficient and made available as soon as possible after the point people can no longer get SSP

Good economic sense

The director of the Safe Sick Pay campaign Amanda Walters said:

‘Government reforms to ensure employers pay a higher rate of sick pay from day one wouldn’t just be an act of compassion, it is good economic sense.’

Avatar of Rebecca Routledge

Rebecca Routledge

A qualified journalist for over 15 years with a background in financial services. Rebecca is Money Wellness’s consumer champion, helping you improve your financial wellbeing by providing information on everything from income maximisation to budgeting and saving tips.

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