Maintaining your business

If you decide to keep running your business after a cancer diagnosis, it is important to be realistic about what you can do. It will help to:

We have more information about making decisions about your business.

Managing your workload

These tips may help you to manage your workload if you need to work fewer hours.


Decide what must get done soon, and what can be left until later. You might decide to prioritise tasks that need your skills and experience, and cannot be done by anyone else.

Time management

Be realistic about deadlines. Allow yourself extra time in case you do not feel well or something unexpected happens.

Put aside time for breaks and activities that help you to relax or feel better.

Flexible working

Think about different ways of working. For example, you may be able to work from home instead of travelling to a customer.

Who else can help you?

If you do not have employees, you might want to think about the following:

  • Can you afford to hire a virtual secretary or bookkeeper who works from their own home or office?
  • Can you use a subcontractor for some parts of a project?
  • Could someone else manage your website for a while?
  • If you ship goods, can a fulfilment house do this for a while?
  • Which tasks have to be done every day at a regular time?
  • Can someone cover the days you are not available or feel unwell?
  • Which tasks do you least enjoy? They probably take more of your energy, so maybe someone else can do them for a while.
  • Can you group tasks according to the skills needed to complete them? For example, you might group sorting post, filing and answering the phone, or driving and making deliveries. Then when someone offers to help, you have a list of things they may be able to do.
  • Do you have friends in the same trade or profession who could do some of your work for a while?
  • If other people offer to help, do they have the right skills and qualifications? Can they do the work legally and to the required standards? For example, a heating engineer will need to be listed on the Gas Safe Register.
  • Are there jobs around the house that someone could help with, so that you can focus on your work?

Other people in the business, or your family, may really want to help. It can help to be open and honest about what is needed. But try not to let them take on more than is fair or more than they can cope with.

Think about what is involved in any work someone is offering to do for you. Then think about whether they have the skills and time to help.

If you accept help make sure:

  • they can update you regularly
  • they feel able to ask questions
  • they feel able to change their mind if it becomes too much work for them.

Business finances

If you are not able to work for a while, it can have a big impact on your business finances. You may have to think about:

  • cash flow (how much money is coming into, and going out of, your business)
  • how to plan your business finances
  • how much money you have available right now to meet your business expenses and to pay any staff (including yourself).

Maintaining your cash flow

There are things you can do to help maintain your cash flow:

  • Chase up outstanding invoices and take appropriate action against late payers.
  • Offer your customers incentives for early payment.
  • Start thinking about other sources of income. You may qualify for a grant or emergency funding to help small businesses or members of your trade or profession.
  • Check whether you are covered by critical illness insurance or income protection insurance.
  • Check if you have insurance included within your business loans. If so, talk to your insurer. Or call the Macmillan Support Line on 0808 808 00 00 to talk to a financial guide about making a claim.

Taking on new work may not be the best solution at the moment.

It is also important to make sure you are claiming all the state benefits you are eligible for.

Spending less

Some spending will be needed to keep your business going. This could be things like paying the phone bill or shipping goods. Other spending may not be needed for a while. Here are some examples:

  • If you do not need your building for a while, you may be able to reach an agreement with your landlord. Or you may be able to rent it to someone else temporarily.
  • If you rent a vehicle, check if you can return it.
  • If your business involves selling merchandise, look at how you can manage your stock differently.
  • You could also talk to your staff about working shorter hours for a while. Or you could reduce spending on non-essential areas of the business.

Before reducing important spending, consider the long-term impact on your business. How much will it cost you to put those resources back into place when you are ready?

Tips for dealing with business debts

Here are some tips for dealing with business bills or debts:

  • Do not ignore your debts. If you do not act, they will just get worse.
  • If you have insurance, such as business insurance, find out whether it will pay out now because you have cancer.
  • Create a budget that lists your income and outgoings.
  • Deal with priority debts first. This means debts where non-payment could have serious consequences, such as losing your home or business.
  • Get independent advice before you borrow any more money. The wrong decision could make your debts worse. We list more sources of advice on work and business issues at the end of this page.

You may not want to tell people about the cancer. But if you owe them money or need to claim insurance, you will probably have to. You may also be asked for a letter from your doctor confirming your diagnosis.

When you talk to creditors, it helps to have a plan in mind. Be open, honest and realistic about when you will pay them. Tell them where you expect the money to come from.

Paying taxes

If you are worried about paying your tax on time, it is important to contact Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) straight away.

If you think your income will be lower while you have treatment, you can also ask HMRC to reduce part of your tax payments on account.

If you do not think you will be able to pay your tax in full on time, call the HMRC Business Payment Support Service on 0300 200 3835. You should only call this number before the payment deadline.

If you miss the deadline and receive a letter asking for payment, you must contact the HMRC office that sent it. You will find the contact details on the letter.

Macmillan cannot advise you on business debt and finances, but we can provide information about personal money matters.

If you are worried about paying any business bills or debts:

  • In England, Scotland and Wales you can get free, confidential advice and help from Business Debtline or Citizens Advice.
  • In Northern Ireland you can get free advice from Citizens Advice.

It is a good idea to get expert, independent advice before you approach your creditors or agree to new finance arrangements.

Talking to the bank

Contact your bank manager if you expect to have problems making payments on money you owe, such as:

  • an overdraft
  • a business credit card
  • a business loan.

If you are looking for short-term funding, you will need to explain why.

Before talking to your bank, be prepared to answer questions about your health as correctly as you can. This is especially important if you have insurance through your bank. Some forms of insurance, such as travel insurance, may become invalid if you do not give all the relevant facts about your health.

Protection against discrimination

If you have or have had cancer, you are considered by law to be disabled. Banks are not allowed to discriminate against people with a disability when they are deciding on loans, except in certain circumstances. This protection comes from the Equality Act 2010 in England, Scotland and Wales and the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 in Northern Ireland.

A bank may only be able to discriminate against someone with a disability if they can show that there is a greater risk of you not being able to make repayments because of disability.

The bank also has a duty to make changes so that people with cancer can still use their services.

If you think your bank has treated you unfairly because you have cancer, contact their internal complaints department first. If you are not satisfied with their response, you can refer your complaint to the Financial Ombudsman Service. This service helps people with complaints about financial services.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission also has a helpline on 0808 800 0082 or text phone 0808 800 0084. They can give you information and guidance about your rights.

Getting expert help

You may already have a bookkeeper or accountant. They can help you keep your finances under control while you are taking some time off. If you do not have this kind of help already, it might be a good idea to get it.

A good accountant may save you more money than you pay them. It might also be helpful to hire someone to send out your invoices and chase payments.

  • One of the best ways to find an accountant or bookkeeper is through personal recommendations. Ask your neighbours, friends and business contacts.
  • Your local Chamber of Commerce or small business group can also give you a list of providers.
  • The Register of Statutory Auditors lists accountancy firms that are approved to prepare and audit financial accounts.
  • If you are a member of a professional body, they might have a fund to help members dealing with health problems.

More advice on work and business issues

You can get advice and information about work and business issues for free or at a low cost from: