Having spent as much as £1.5 million promoting the shared parental leave option over the last two years, it has only highlighted the fact that this benefit isn’t even an option for the millions of self-employed workers across the UK.
There are approximately 285,000 couples that are eligible for shared parental leave, however, figures from the Department of Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) have shown that the number of people taking advantage of this could be as little as two per cent.
The Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed (IPSE) have responded to this latest data.
Tom Purvis, IPSE’s Economic and Political Advisor, commented, “It is clearly concerning that so few people are taking up this type of parental leave. Shared parental leave can give parents much more additional flexibility, but evidently far too few are taking advantage of it.
“Perhaps one of the most significant reasons is that this invaluable option hasn’t been extended to the people who need it most: the self-employed. Right now, if you are a self-employed person, you can only access maternity allowance, not full maternity pay or shared parental leave.
“This means that instead of having flexible parental leave options, self-employed people have no choice other than to take 39 weeks off with only ten ‘keeping in touch days’ to keep their business ticking over. This is very damaging because often self-employed people cannot afford to take 39 weeks off without harming the future of their businesses. For most it is near-impossible to maintain client relations and other key aspects of their businesses in just ten short days. Instead, many self-employed people cut their leave short.”
He added, “Considering the importance of self-employment to the UK economy – and the growing number of women choosing to work for themselves – it is simply not acceptable that there is still so little support for self-employed parents. The system is too rigid to benefit self-employed people who are looking to support their businesses. Just as the self-employed inject flexibility into the economy, so the parental benefits system needs a shot of flexibility too. IPSE is calling on the Government to take the first step by extending shared parental leave to this vital and growing sector.”
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