The growth of self-employed mothers

Friday 29 September 2017

Self-employment is becoming more and more popular in the UK. With many people seeking the flexibility and control over their workload that comes with being their own boss, it is not surprising to see that this way of working is growing. However, while a lot is being done to help the self-employed in general, specific demographics within this group are being neglected.

One area in particular that is in need of attention is self-employed motherhood. This is a rapidly growing segment of the UK workforce. From 2008 to 2016, the number of self-employed women increased by 55 per cent, while the number of mothers working for themselves increased by an impressive 79 per cent in the same period.

On the one hand, this is great news. Self-employment has enabled new mums to spend time with their children while still earning an income, thanks to the flexibility that the lifestyle offers. However, there are currently some major shortfalls when it comes to what the government provides for this group.

Tom Purvis, the political and economic adviser for the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self Employed (IPSE), has pointed out two areas in which self-employed mothers do not enjoy the same benefits as employees: maternity and paternity provision, and childcare vouchers.

First of all, self-employed people are not entitled to shared parental leave as employees are. They may claim Maternity Allowance, providing them with around £140 per week for 39 weeks, but this must all be taken in one block. In addition, the person taking it may only undertake paid work on a maximum of ten days during this period.

This makes it very difficult to both run a business and have a child, forcing many self-employed people into a difficult decision between their career and having a family. There is also the issue of childcare vouchers, which are given out to employees but not to freelancers.

This makes it harder for self-employed parents to afford childcare, which in turn might put them off having a family. It could also lead to their children missing out compared to others with easier access to childcare. IPSE recommends that if the government introduces changes to childcare policies, "the self-employed are head of the queue".

Mr Purvis added: "It would be sensible for the government to continue to prioritise the flexibility of the UK labour market, as it grants people the flexibility they desire, whilst also helping them earn a living irrespective of their personal circumstances."

By Victoria McDonnell

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