Campaign calls for Shared Parental Pay for self employed

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Self employed people should have the right to Shared Parental Pay, according to a new campaign which is gathering force.

The Parental Pay Equality campaign says that the current maternity pay system for the self-employed “places the entire burden of childcare onto the mother and offers no financial support for self-employed fathers or same-sex partners wanting to share some or all of the childcare”. It has conducted research which it submitted to Matthew Taylor’s review on modern working practices.

The campaign’s call for Shared Parental Pay to be extended to the self employed was one of the review’s recommendations. It is currently running a petition, which will be handed to Government at the March Of The Mummies event that is raising awareness for a number of maternity discrimination issues on October 31st.

Shared Parental Leave is available to couples where one member is eligible for SMP or MA.  The person wishing to share their leave must have been employed continuously by the same employer for at least 26 weeks by the end of the 15th week before the due date and stay with the same employer for the duration of SPL. Their partner can be self employed, but must meet a certain earning criteria and must have worked for any 26 weeks in the 66 weeks preceding the birth.

Olga Fitzroy started the Parental Pay Equality campaign. She is self employed and works in the music industry. She was hoping to take Shared Parental Leave, but found she was unable to because she was self employed. Around the same time she won an award for her work and was asked about SPL. She read the interview back. “I thought you are complaining a lot. Why don’t you do something,” she says.

So she set up a website and spoke to a number of people, including Jo Swinson, the Liberal Democrat MP who helped to devise the SPL legislation. Swinson suggested getting in touch with the Taylor review and, after doing a survey of parents, Olga did. Since then she has been lobbying a cross-party selection of MPs and union leaders to get their support and has written an open letter to Justine Greening, Minister for Women and Equalities, and Margot James, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Small Business, Consumers and Corporate Responsibility. She has also been invited to do a presentation at Whitehall next week.

Olga says there are no big costs involved in extending SPP to the self employed.  It just means that women who are self employed would be able to split their 39 weeks paid leave with their partners.  

Her survey found that some women cut short their maternity leave due to the level of maternity pay, but equally, Olga argues, having SPP might stop some women dropping out of the workforce altogether since shorter leave would have less impact on their business.

“Shared Parental Leave is so new. There’s this idea that the self employed shouldn’t get anything, but we do pay tax,” she says.

Olga is also keen to highlight anomalies between Statutory Maternity Pay and Maternity Allowance. For instance, those on SMP can do as much self employed work as they want without losing their maternity pay. However, those on MA can only do up to 10 Keeping in Touch days.

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