The 15th of September is Pension Awareness Day, created to help people understand how much they will need in the future and what they need to do to reach their saving goals. In today’s blog, content developer Ella explains the types of pension available, and looks at the impacts living with cancer can have on your pension.

It can be worth thinking about your pension options when you have cancer.

There are several reasons why:

  • You may need to access your pension early because of ill health.
  • If you need to stop work or change your hours for a while because of cancer, you may wish to know how this effects your pension.
  • You may want to find out how your loved ones could benefit from your pension if you die.

Types of pension
There are two types of pension:

  • State Pension
  • private pension.

The State Pension is a regular payment you can get from the government when you reach a certain age. You need to have paid National Insurance for at least 10 years to get any State Pension. This does not need to have been 10 years in a row. 

Private pensions can be arranged by either your employer (workplace pensions), or they can be arranged by you (personal pensions). 

What happens if I reduce my hours or stop work?
Because of cancer or its treatment, you may have to:

  • take time off work
  • reduce your hours
  • stop work.

If you are employed and use your holiday allowance to take time off, your pension will not be affected. If you are unable to use your holiday allowance, there are different ways your pension could be affected.

Your State Pension
The new State Pension was introduced on April 6th 2018. To get the full rate of new State Pension, you will need to have paid National Insurance (or have had National Insurance credits) for at least 35 years. 

The full new State Pension pays £164.35 a week. The amount you can get depends on how many years you have paid National Insurance for. If at least one of your qualifying years was before April 6th 2018, transitional rules will be used to calculate your pension.

If you reached retirement age before April 6th 2018,  you are not eligible for the new state pension but you may be eligible for the old-style Retirement Pension.

Your private pension
If you are getting sick pay, you could continue to pay into your private pension as normal, but this is not always the case. Employers have different sick pay schemes. You may want to consider the following:

  • If you reduce your working hours and are paid less, this will probably reduce your payments towards your pension.
  • If you stop working and stop paying money into your pension, your pension at retirement will be smaller.

In any of these situations, exactly what happens depends on your work contract and the rules of the pension scheme. To check whether your pension will be affected by time off or reduced hours, talk to:

  • your employer
  • the human resources (HR) department at work
  • the pension scheme manager.

It is also worth checking whether you have any extra benefits with your pension scheme. They could help you keep up your pension contributions. Talk to the scheme provider if you want to check this.

If you would like more information, we have a booklet called Pensions. This is a guide to planning for and making the most of your retirement savings. It includes information on state, personal and workplace pensions. We also have information on our website.

We have more information about managing work and cancer. We also have financial guides who can help you deal with your money worries. Call us on 0808 808 00 00 to speak to a financial guide or benefits adviser who will provide impartial advice. A professional financial adviser will also be able to help make sure you get the highest income from your private pension.


To see what else Macmillan's cancer information team has been blogging about, please visit our blog home page! You can subscribe to receive our blogs by email or RSS too.

We're with you every step of the way

The Macmillan team is here to help. Our cancer support specialists can answer your questions, offer support, or simply listen if you need a chat. Call us free on 0808 808 00 00.

Comments? Feel free to add them below (you need to be logged in).

Keep in touch Follow Macmillan’s cancer information team on Twitter @mac_cancerinfo