‘Late payments disproportionately affect female freelancers’

IPSE highlights some of the disproportionate  problems facing female freelancers during the pandemic for International Women’s Day.

Employee using a calculator and notepad


Female freelancers have face a “disproportionate financial struggle” during the pandemic with more problems being paid, although fewer have left self employment, according to a study by the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed [IPSE].

IPSE research shows that on top of the greater gender pay gap among freelancers (43% compared to 17% among employees), during the pandemic, female freelancers have also had greater financial problems. One of the key ones is that they have been hit more by late payment. Almost half of female freelancers (49%) said they had experienced late payment before the pandemic (compared to 40%) of men, while two out of five (40%) had done since the pandemic – compared to 23 per cent of men.

At the same time, however, the number of self-employed women has dropped less than men during the pandemic, with a 1 per cent fall among women compared to 7 per cent among self-employed men. However, while fewer women have left self-employment during the pandemic, the financial situation among those who remain is, on average, worse than among men.

Late payment has caused serious problems for female freelancers during the pandemic: one in five (22%) have not had enough money to cover basic living costs – compared to 11 per cent of male freelancers.  They are also more likely than men to have had no money to cover work-related expenses (23% compared to 15%). They are therefore also more likely to have had to borrow money from family and friends (19% compared to 8%).

Late payment and financial struggles have had a more severe impact on female freelancers, with nearly two out of five (39%) losing sleep over worry – compared to 26 per cent of men. Nearly one in three (30%) also felt feelings of inadequacy (compared to 12% of men), while more than a third (37%) experienced a lack of confidence (compared to 18% of male freelancers).

IPSE adds that another key problem affecting many female freelancers during the pandemic is reduced government support because of maternity leave as well as the double home and work shift.

Chloé Jepps, Head of Research at IPSE, said: “The pandemic has brought disproportionate financial struggles on many self-employed women. Even before 2020, they faced a much greater gender pay gap than among employees: the average female freelancer charged £65 less than their male counterparts and was more likely to want support and guidance to stop them undervaluing themselves. Now, the pandemic has exacerbated the financial divide between male and female freelancers.

“Although there has been a bigger drop in the number of self-employed men than women – in large part due to the varied impact on different sectors – the women still in self-employment are facing greater financial struggles than their male counterparts.

“Overall, it is clear that although more women have clung on in self-employment, of those freelancers who remain, the financial strain of the pandemic is hitting women harder, both practically and in terms of mental health. This is an area that both government and industry should look at – to ensure all self-employed people regardless of gender can enjoy the freedom of freelancing and play their vital part in economic recovery.”

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