Ryan Barnett explains why Shared Parental Leave (SPL) should be extended to the self-employed.
- 15 Jul 2019
Shared Parental Leave (SPL), introduced in April 2015, was intended to give fathers more time to bond with their children, and to ease expectations on mothers. 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. However, the self-employed have been excluded from this, which has effectively left them second class when it comes to childcare.
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.
When making an application for leave, you must also give your employer more than eight weeks’ notice. It is quite easy to access for employees. You’ll have to provide adequate identification such as a passport and evidence of the birth such as a birth certificate. You’ll also have to provide information about your partner’s employer.
Parents can take leave in their child’s first year in blocks and at different times or double up and take leave at the same time. Leave can be booked in three separate blocks, or in one go. Your partner can do the same. You will need to inform your employer of your initial plan when you apply. However, this can change, and you can alter your planned dates for leave as long as your employer is given eight weeks’ notice.
There is also an option to have ‘keeping in touch’ (KIT) days, where you can work up to 10 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.
Eligibility for SPL should be extended to the self-employed. It is estimated that this regulatory change would be essentially cost-neutral, as it would merely mean sharing an existing allowance between two people.
Government figures released for SPL last year indicated that take-up could be as low as two per cent.
This means that there is allocated funding that is not being used. All the while, there is a demographic crying out for this kind of support. It fits in with the kind of policies the self-employed want to see, which would work for them.
It is very flexible and has a reasonable cost mechanism which would be easy to enact. Though there has been rapid growth (63% since 2008) in women becoming self-employed, the majority of the sector is male and a balanced method of allowing for parental leave to be shared and accrued is therefore even more appropriate.
Last year, Labour MP Tracy Brabin (with support from IPSE) called on the government to extend SPL to the self-employed. She said at the time: “It really feels like the days of introducing employment rights which only apply to those on secure contracts are stuck in the past and really should come to an end.
“We need more women in the creative industries.’
“And one way to make that happen quickly is to help new mothers in establishing families with equal parenting roles. This is far less likely to happen if the mothers are required to stay at home with the babies, while their partners go back to work.”
It is time now that the government recognises how important the self-employed are to the economy.
This measure is cheap, it can help justify a less than successful government policy and support parents. From there, the UK’s self-employed can be confident in raising a family and thriving in their business life – without feeling they need to choose.
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