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Shared Parental Leave (SPL) was introduced to the UK in 2015 and allows mothers going on maternity leave to split up the 52 weeks of maternity leave and 39 weeks of statutory pay with their partners. 33 of those weeks are paid at the Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) of £140.98 with the leave being split in blocks of time.

SPL currently only applies to employees, not those in self-employed roles. Currently if you are self employed you are entitled to “Maternity Allowance” which can be worth up to £140.98. However, the leave must be taken in a single block and working for more than the 10 days allocated for ‘keeping in touch’ could see the loss of the Maternity Allowance.

A Bill has recently been submitted which if accepts will see SPL being extended to the self-employed.

The call for this change stems from the changing landscape of employment in the UK, recognised by the Taylor Review and with the number of Britons living in job-to-job existence and a growing freelance sector.

Those backing the bill argue that:

1.The lack of SPL has a huge impact on the self-employed particularly in the creative sector (where it is estimated that 44% of the workforce is self-employed) but also engineering, education and physiotherapy.

2. Allowing those in self-employment to benefit from SPL is cost neutral.

3. Despite the 2% uptake from those who are currently eligible.

4. There would be a 70% plus uptake from those in self-employment (survey by Parental Pay.

5. The introduction of SPL would stop the damage done to businesses run by women. 56% of self-employed couples felt a woman’s business suffered as a result of having a child (survey by Parental Pay Equality).

6. The extension would allow fathers to spend time building relationships with their children.

7. One in seven free-lancers are now working mothers with an estimated 24,000 women claiming Maternity Allowance every year who may benefit from the extension of SPL.

The benefits of this extension are quite clear but some may argue that the extension of employment rights to the self-employed further blurs the lines between the types of working.

The Labour party have indicated that they intend to introduce this change if it wins but it has been suggested that there is cross-party support including from the conservative party.

Nick Hobden Partner and Head of Employment – Thomson Snell & Passmore.

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