The self-employed urgently need Shared Parental Leave - IPSE
Flexibility, freedom and independence are the most common drivers for choosing self-employment says IPSE.
These benefits are particularly appealing to new parents – one in seven of all freelancers are now working mothers.
But existing policies place the entire burden of childcare on self-employed mothers and denies fathers the right to bond with their children – reinforcing gender inequalities at home and work. IPSE strongly supports Tracy Brabin’s move to extend Shared Parental leave (SPL) to the self-employed so that parents have equal opportunities to care for their children.
While recent news headlines show the uptake of SPL has been low among employees, the flexibility it provides would mean the policy would likely be taken up in greater numbers among those who work for themselves. For example, SPL can be taken in three blocks of time, whereas Maternity Allowance – the only parental pay the self-employed are currently entitled to - must be taken in one block. This would particularly help the self-employed given their work is often on a project-by-project basis. According to a recent survey, 88% of the self-employed that have taken Maternity Allowance in the past would like to have been able to break the leave into blocks.
SPL also provides more opportunities to maintain a business during early months of parenthood. While claiming Maternity Allowance a self-employed mother can work for ten Keeping In Touch (KIT) days. If she wants to work for more than ten days, she must stop her Maternity Allowance, and this cannot be restarted. This is very damaging because self-employed people cannot afford to take 39 weeks off without harming their business. For most it is near-impossible to maintain client relations and other key aspects of their business in just ten short days. Instead many self-employed people cut their leave short.
In comparison, an employee can work up to 20 days during SPL without bringing it to an end, in addition to the ten KIT days. Making this option available to self-employed parents through the extension of SPL could provide a lifeline to parents looking to maintain their business during the early months of childhood.
Given the importance of self-employment to the UK economy – and the growing number of women choosing to work for themselves – it is simply not acceptable that there is still so little support for self-employed parents. Given that extending SPL to the self-employed would be essentially cost neutral, it is hard to understand why government is holding back support to this vital and growing sector. Just as the self-employed inject flexibility into the economy, so the parental benefits system needs a shot of flexibility too.