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Maternity rights around self-employment is a complex area and growing more complex by the day as more and more women set up their own businesses, often on the side of other jobs.
The main concern is over maternity pay. Only employees are entitled to maternity leave and to claim Statutory Maternity Pay.
If you are self employed – if you pay your own tax and National Insurance contributions, run your own business and can decide how and when you work – it is generally up to you to decide when to stop work and how much time to take off. However, there are some circumstances where women who are self-employed can qualify for Statutory Maternity Pay.
If you are a director of a limited company and are considered an employee of the company and have been working there for at least 26 weeks preceding the 15th week before your due date you can claim SMP.
As a director you still have rights as a shareholder to attend meetings and make and vote on company decisions during your maternity leave and you can qualify for 10 Keeping in Touch Days in order to keep your company running without losing SMP.
Otherwise you may qualify for MA, which is £140.98 a week for 39 weeks, compared to SMP which is generally six weeks at 90% of your salary and the following 33 weeks on £140.98. You can claim MA if you have worked for at least 26 of the 66 weeks before the expected week of childbirth, and you can find 13 weeks (not necessarily in a row) in which you earned over £30 per week on average.
It is best to choose the weeks in which you earned the most and you can add together earnings from more than job, with employed and self employed work both counting.
What if you are doing an employed job on the side of running your own business? You cannot claim SMP and MA at the same time and you can only make one claim for MA, although you can combine earnings from more than one job to qualify for MA. You can only get MA instead of SMP so you would need to claim SMP on your employed job, if you are eligible – see https://www.gov.uk/statutory-maternity-pay/eligibility – or MA.
Many people are also unclear about what their rights are to do self employed work during their maternity leave.
If you work for an employer who is not liable to pay Class 1 National Insurance contributions, such as voluntary work or self-employment, you can still get SMP from your old employer.
Self-employed parents or people who have recently started jobs won’t be able to take Shared Parental Leave or get Shared Parental Pay, but their partners might be able to if they qualify under employment and earnings criteria.