‘Self-employed mums feel pressure to return to work early’

A new survey highlights how self-employed women feel forced to return to work early due to Maternity Allowance rates.

Baby in front of laptop


Eight-five per cent of self-employed mothers return to work from maternity leave before they feel ready to do so and say there needs to be more support from the government, according to a survey by John Charcol, an independent mortgage broker.

In a survey of 100 self-employed mums conducted by OnePoll, John Charcol revealed that the average self-employed mother takes just 23 weeks off work as maternity leave, while 36% of self-employed mothers did not claim Maternity Allowance for their last pregnancy. Some 69% of mothers said that Maternity Allowance should be higher for self-employed women, while 83% believed it was unfair that self-employed women couldn’t share parental leave with their partner like full-time employed workers can.

A Freedom of Information request filed by John Charcol revealed that there were 127,400 successful Maternity Allowance claims filed by self-employed individuals between 1st January 2013 and 1st December 2017. The total amount of Maternity Allowance paid within this period was approximately £508.6 million, which amounts to £3,992 per claim.

Self-employed women can claim up to £145.18 per week for a maximum of 39 weeks as Maternity Allowance, although this will increase to £148.68 per week from April 2019. A permanently-employed woman on a salary of £25,000 can earn almost £2,000 more over the same period through basic Statutory Maternity Pay, which equates to 90% of your average weekly earnings for the first six weeks and then £145.18 per week for the next 33 weeks.

What’s more, salaried women can earn considerably more while on maternity leave, depending on their employer’s policy. Some employers – like Transport for London and Etsy – offer full pay to employees on maternity leave for up to 26 weeks, while Netflix offers full pay for an entire year.

Like women on SMP,  self-employed mothers are only permitted to work for 10 ‘keeping in touch’ (KIT) while on maternity leave to qualify for Maternity Allowance. However, women on SMP can do self-employed work without losing maternity pay.

John Charcol adds that the financial pressure on self-employed mothers, who cannot afford to stay away from their businesses can cause serious health issues, with research from NHS workers showing that mothers who return to work early from maternity leave commonly suffer from stress, anxiety, lack of sleep and loss of confidence.

The mortgage adviser adds that fluctuating income due to maternity leave could affect a woman’s chances of getting a mortgage as they often have to show at least two years of account activity. Mothers getting SMP can just show a recent payslip.


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