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Shared Parental Leave: Why Self-Employed People Don’t Benefit…But Should

When my son was born, my self-employed husband tried to cut his hours down so he could spend time with us in the first few weeks.

Starting really early or finishing early, he was able to get home to do a few nappy changes and have the odd cuddle. But it didn’t last long as he needed to get back out to earn a crust.

Delirious from lack of sleep and drowning under piles of dirty washing, I didn’t have chance to think about how sad it was that he’d missed so much.

But it all came back to me just recently as I read the open letter calling to extend the new Shared Parental Pay Benefit to the self-employed.

Famous musicians including Chris Martin from Coldplay and the film director Tim Burton joined dozens of MPs to sign the letter that describes Maternity Allowance as placing the entire burden of childcare on the mother with self-employed fathers and adopters getting nothing.

It really brought it home to me how unfair it is, and how, with the changing nature of our workforce and the fact that people are working differently, we need to keep up with it.

The campaign group behind the letter, Parental Pay Equality, say that the current regulations surrounding time off when a baby comes along, are based on the 1950s model of the family where the mother does all the caring.

However, sound-engineer and the woman behind Parental Pay Equality, Olga FitzRoy, urged the government to realise how times have changed.

She explained that in the creative industries 44 per cent are self-employed and most love their jobs and don’t want to choose between family and career.

She said: “With shared parental pay we wouldn’t have to choose. It would be paid at exactly the same rate as maternity allowance for the same number of weeks, but parents could share the leave flexibly and women’s careers would suffer less, while new dads and adopters, who currently get nothing, could bond with their kids. Everyone’s a winner and we envisage the cost to be minimal”

As campaigners observed Equal Pay Day this month – the day in the year that women stop earning relative to men, to show the difference in average earnings between women and men – it’s vital unfairness in our system in highlighted.

Research shows 54 per cent of women’s businesses suffered as a result of not being able to share leave and I agree with campaigners like Olga who say the time has come for change.

Lobby your MPs, stay aware of what’s going on and hopefully, in time, changes will be made so that self-employed fathers don’t have to miss out.

Juliette Franklin is an employment lawyer at Slater and Gordon Lawyers in Cardiff.

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