Improving the lot for self-employed parents

The number of working mothers in England has grown dramatically over the past two decades. The Office for National Statistics found that 4.9 million women were working last year while looking after children, which represents an increase of 1.2 million since 1996. And self-employment has been a major catalyst behind this growth.

Between 2008 and 2016, the number of female self-employed people increased by 55 per cent. In the same period, the number of mothers who were self-employed increased by 79 per cent and now total 302,000.

They make up a significant part of the self-employed workforce and, by improving the flexibility within the labour market, these mothers are able to earn additional income which can be re-invested in their child.

It is important that the UK continues to offer such flexibility and also encourages entrepreneurship amongst society. As a result of the added flexibility of the UK labour market, unemployment is at its lowest levels and employment its highest since records began.

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.


One way to promote this trend would be the further development of maternity and paternity provisions for self-employed parents. Currently there is an entitlement gap between those who are employed, and those who are self-employed when they go on leave. Dealing with this issue would continue to promote the flexibility of the UK labour market and make it clear that the self-employed don’t have to choose between a family or a career, but can instead have both. 

IPSE would also like to see the Government offer childcare vouchers for self-employed parents as they do for employees. IPSE would also recommend that, if the Government introduces changes to childcare policies, the self-employed are head of the queue. As well as allowing new parents to continue doing what they do best, it will also offer flexibility so that the child doesn’t get left behind. 

Meet the author

Tom Purvis

Political and Economic Adviser

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