#5millionvotes: Getting a fair deal for freelance parents

IPSE believes that the next government should extend Shared Parental Leave (SPL) to the self-employed and take action on maternity and paternity pay, so that parents have equal opportunities to care for their children – and build their own business.

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SPL allows up to 50 weeks of leave – 37 weeks of which is paid – to be shared by parents if they meet certain eligibility criteria. These are different for birth and adoptive parents. Statutory Shared Parental Pay (ShPP) is £139.58 a week or 90 per cent of an employee's average weekly earnings – whichever is lower. This is the same as Statutory Maternity Pay.

There is an option too to have ‘keeping in touch’ (KIT) days where you can work up to ten days during your time off to maintain a relationship with the workplace. This is in addition to ‘shared parental leave in touch’ (SPLIT) days. Of course, this too is only geared towards employees, but there is an obvious framework here for the self-employed.

Parents can take this leave in blocks of their choosing, which fits very well with the variable nature of self-employment. In fact, people often say that caring responsibilities are among the main causes for them moving into self-employment.

One of the key reasons SPL was introduced in April 2015 was to give fathers more time to bond with their children, and to ease expectations on mothers. However, the self-employed have been excluded from this right, effectively making them second-class when it comes to childcare.  

This has the double effect of restricting the bonding time self-employed fathers have with their children and also making it much harder for mothers to re-enter the workforce on their own terms. The policy is also very vague when it comes to same-sex couples.

So far, SPL take-up is estimated to be as low as two per cent of employed couples – so low that the government has invested in an advertising campaign. But if the government is really looking to increase uptake, what better way than to open it up to the self-employed, a group that would truly benefit from the flexibility it allows?

So far, both the Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats’ manifestos commit to extending these rights to freelancers. The other parties have been quiet on the issue, focusing more instead on better connectivity and concerns about late payment.

In IPSE’s manifesto, we are calling on the next government to:

  • Extend Shared Parental Leave (SPL) to the self-employed so that parents have equal opportunities to care for their children – at the same time as building their own businesses.
  • Introduce Statutory Maternity Pay for self-employed mothers.
  • Extend Statutory Paternity Leave to fathers who are self-employed

Introducing Shared Parental leave and updating the parental rights of freelancers is not only the fair thing for the next government to do. It would aid the flexibility of the workforce, improving people’s lives outside and inside of their work – reassuring them they have the support they need to start a family. Employees have the security and support to start a family: it’s time the self-employed had the same.

Meet the author

Ryan Barnett

Economic policy adviser