The self-employed urgently need shared parental leave

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IPSE has responded to figures released today by the Department of Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) showing that the take-up for shared parental leave could be as low as two per cent.

There are currently around 285,000 couples eligible for shared parental leave, but very few of them seem to be making use of it. The shared parental leave option was introduced in 2015, and the Government has now spent £1.5 million promoting it across the UK.

Tom Purvis, IPSE’s Economic and Political Advisor, said: “It is clearly concerning that so few people are taking up this type of parental leave. Shared parental leave can give parents much more additional flexibility, but evidently far too few are taking advantage of it.

“Perhaps one of the most significant reasons is that this invaluable option hasn’t been extended to the people who need it most: the self-employed. Right now, if you are a self-employed person, you can only access maternity allowance, not full maternity pay or shared parental leave.

“This means that instead of having flexible parental leave options, self-employed people have no choice other than to take 39 weeks off with only ten ‘keeping in touch days’ to keep their businesses ticking over. This is very damaging because often self-employed people cannot afford to take 39 weeks off without harming the future of their businesses. For most it is near-impossible to maintain client relations and other key aspects of their businesses in just ten short days. Instead, many self-employed people cut their leave short.

“Considering 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. The system is too rigid to benefit self-employed people who are looking to support their businesses. Just as the self-employed inject flexibility into the economy, so the parental benefits system needs a shot of flexibility too. IPSE is calling on the Government to take the first step by extending shared parental leave to this vital and growing sector.”

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