Selfie Leave

We are calling on the Government to urgently update the shared parental leave and pay rules to include self-employed parents.

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We are calling on the Government to urgently update the shared parental leave and pay rules to include self-employed parents.

Since it was introduced in 2015, shared parental leave and pay legislation has meant that employees can split their parental leave. It’s a flexible system that means parents can make the decisions about childcare and work that are right for them.

However, there is no shared parental leave and pay system in place for self-employed parents. The current system of Maternity Allowance 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. This inflexible system perpetuates gender-stereotypes and is holding back equality in the music industry, where around 72 % of all workers are self-employed.

UK Music has been campaigning with Coldplay and Doctor Who sound engineer and Music Producers Guild Executive Director Olga FitzRoy. The campaign has gained cross-party support and has been backed by stars from the world of music and entertainment, including Coldplay’s Chris Martin and singer-songwriter Laura Marling. We have also supported Tracy Brabin’s Shared Parental Leave and Pay (Extension) Bill, also known as the “#SelfieLeave” Bill and Jo Swinson’s Employment Rights (Shared Parental Leave and Flexible Working) Bill.

The current situation

Shared Parental Leave (SPL) allows eligible employees up to 50 weeks of parental leave and Statutory Shared Parental Pay (ShPP) for 37 weeks of this, which partners can share between them.

Parents can take leave in blocks separated by periods of work or take it all in one go. They can also choose to be off work together or to stagger the leave and pay.

Employees may get more than the statutory SPL or ShPP if their employers have supportive policies.

This is not the case for self-employed workers. Currently parents who are self-employed have no system available that allows them to share parental leave or pay.

Self-employed mothers can claim Maternity Allowance (MA), paid at the same rate as ShPP for 39 weeks. There is currently is no mechanism by which self-employed fathers can claim financial support for looking after their child. MA can’t be shared with their partner.

MA also can’t be split into separate blocks, so if the woman comes off MA in order to work for a period she cannot go back on MA.

Effects on the Self Employed

Self-employed mothers are effectively forced into being the sole carer in the first 39 weeks, and fathers are not being given the opportunity to care for their child.

Families that want to share childcare during this period are therefore financially penalised, and many simply can’t afford it.

This can have a detrimental effect on the mother’s work, leaving her unable to take work that could be crucial to her business or her career. Parental Pay Equality research shows that 54 per cent of those surveyed felt that not being able to share paid leave had a negative impact on the mother’s work, especially given that usual legal maternity protections such as redundancy protection and pay rises don’t apply. Further research on freelance mothers returning to work found that only 20% of freelancers were back to their pre-baby earnings by the time their child was two.

Recommendations for change

The Government needs to show that they are in touch with the modern world of work and families. We would like to see a ShPP scheme implemented for self-employed parents.

Parental Pay Equality research shows that 74% of those surveyed would share leave if it became available and 84% said the ability to share leave would have a positive impact on their family.

The cost to the Government would be minimal as families would only be claiming what the mother is already entitled to under MA.

Extending this right to self-employed workers would make a big difference to people’s lives. It would allow greater flexibility over childcare decisions, help close the gender pay gap, enable mothers to maintain successful careers and businesses and give fathers the important opportunity to care for their own children.

Why #Selfieleave?

Self-employed workers are being penalised by an inflexible system. There are 4.7 million self-employed workers in the UK, this includes 72% of those working in music, performing and visual arts. 94% of the Music Producers Guild membership are self-employed.

The music industry risks losing talent and diversity if it fails to improve the working conditions of parents and carers. A survey of more than 2,500 workers – including more than 1,000 from the music industry – conducted by Parents and Carers in Performing Arts (PIPA) found that parents and carers were far more likely to leave the music industry than those without caring responsibilities.

Changes to the legislation would also be a major step forward for gender-equality in the music industry. One area of concern highlighted by UK Music’s 2018 diversity survey of the music industry workforce was the finding of a lower representation of females aged 35 and above. We need to be doing everything we can to encourage mothers to stay working in the music industry. The current legislation, enforces outdated gender stereotypes, forcing the childcare responsibilities onto the mother and preventing the father from being able to care for his own child. Fathers want to be able to be closely involved in day-to-day parenting.

Changes to help self-employed working parents are long overdue.

UK Music has long supported proposals to help parents and carers working in the music industry.

We have long supported the “SelfieLeave” Bill to extend shared parental leave to self-employed. It’s a great idea spearheaded by the brilliant campaigning MP Tracy Brabin and award-winning sound engineer Olga Fitzroy who founded Parental Pay Equality.

It’s now high time the Government listened and helped us continue to grow the UK music industry that already contributes £4.5billion to the economy.

– UK Music CEO Michael Dugher

We are losing too much talent because of women continue to be penalised by an antiquated system that forces them into being the main caregiver.

The underrepresentation of women in music production and other freelance industries will only be addressed if the Government gives both parents the opportunity to balance caregiving around their careers.

If the Government is serious about supporting businesses and the creative industries it must back these reforms.

– Music Producers Guild Executive Director and Parental Pay Equality Founder Olga FitzRoy

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the Government doing about this now and what are the next steps?

The government recently launched a public consultation on maternity, paternity and parental leave that will allow campaigners and the public to contribute their views on Selfieleave. It closes in November and the government will be expected to publish a response on next steps. Any new legislation in this area would normally be preceded by this type of consultation so this is significant.

Why is shared parental leave an issue for the music industry?

72% of  those working in performing arts including music are self-employed, much higher than the estimated 15% of the workforce overall.

What is the current situation when it comes to Shared Parental Leave for same-sex parents?

Same-sex parents can take shared parental leave if they are employed. For self-employed parents, only the biological mother is able to claim Maternity allowance, and there is no provision for fathers in a same-sex-couple, or mothers who are not the birth-mother.

Won’t changing the policy in this way fundamentally enable self-employed people to be entitled to other workers’ rights?

No. The Selfieleave proposal is for mothers who qualify for Maternity Allowance or Statutory Maternity Pay to be able to share this paid leave with a partner. It doesnt affect any other rights.

The uptake of Shared Parental Leave by eligible parents has been low so why is it necessary to extend it to the self-employed? 

Self-employed people have no employment protections when they are off work, and often work on a project by project basis. The flexibility of sharing the leave between both parents would allow parents to take it in turns look after the baby and work, and women wouldn’t be forced to have a long break which could lead to clients going elsewhere. The ‘Balancing Act’ report by Parents and Carers in Performing Arts (PiPA) showed that 73% of freelancers would take Shared Parental Leave if they could, so there is clear demand for this amongst the self-employed.

Does this system apply across the whole of the UK, or just England?

Maternity Allowance and Shared Parental Leave apply to the whole of the UK and are not devolved.

Do the same rules apply if you are self-employed and adopting?

Self-employed adopters are not entitled to any adoption pay or any shared parental, maternity or paternity pay. Introducing a self-employed adoption allowance would have an additional cost attached to it, and was among the recommendations of a 2016 government review into self-employment by Julie Deane MBE.

Self-employed people can choose when to work, so why can’t they just take time off when they want to?

Many self-employed people can’t always choose when to work, they need to take work when it comes along, often at times dictated by the clients, so not all self-employed jobs are as flexible as they might appear, particularly in music, where much of the work needs to be in a particular place such as a venue or recording studio. And because there is no paternity or shared parental pay  available, fathers who take time off around the birth of their child don’t get paid, so many can’t afford to take any time at all.

Why should the Government be responsible for supporting self-employed parents?

Self-employed people make up 15% of the workforce, pay taxes and are a vital part of the economy. The government already supports self-employed mothers by providing maternity allowance. Allowing self-employed men and women to share this money that is already allocated will ensure that fathers are more involved in the upbringing of their children and enable a more successful return to work for the mother, reducing the gender pay gap and leading to increased tax revenues.

How much will it cost the Government to implement this plan?

Extending eligibility for Shared Parental Leave and Pay to self-employed parents where the mother qualifies for either statutory maternity pay (if she is employed and her partner self-employed) or Maternity Allowance (if the mother and / or the father are self-employed) should cost no extra money as the money is already allocated.

Not all employed people are eligible. Why should the self-employed be eligible?

Eligibility for a self-employed SPL would be triggered by the mother as it is for employees. Self-employed mothers qualify for MA based on their class 2 NIC’s, and self-employed fathers’ eligibility criteria could be calculated in the same way. So only self-employed people who meet these same criteria would be eligible.