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Three in five self-employed parents taking less than a week off after baby is born

20 December 2015

Parents who are self-employed are taking less than a week off work after the birth of their child, finds a new study from Citizens Advice.

New findings reveal three in five full-time self-employed parents (63 per cent) take less than seven days off after their baby is born, compared with two in five (43 per cent) employed parents.

In a report the national charity warns that many self-employed parents with new babies can struggle to balance the needs of their family with those of their work. Who’s the boss? finds many people who work for themselves are nervous about taking time off for fear losing income or clients.

The report says one of the advantages of being self-employed is being able choose how to structure the working week and  fit this around family life, but there is a risk that a lack of structure can lead lead to long hours and over-work.

It also points out that the demands and responsibility of being self-employed means it can be difficult to take time off, for instance after having a child, and that this can have a knock-on effect on family relationships.  

Citizens Advice has identified differences between the support available for parents who are employees compared to those who work for themselves including around maternity and paternity pay.

For the first six weeks after her child is born a woman who is employed usually receives statutory maternity pay at a rate of 90 per cent of her usual pay.  But a self-employed mother with a new baby can only claim maternity allowance which for most women is paid at a fixed rate and does not reflect their usual income.

There is also no paternity pay available to new fathers who work for themselves or adoption pay for self-employed parents meaning, unlike employed parents, any time they take off will be without income.

Citizens Advice is calling for more support for self-employed parents trying to balance family life and work including:

  • Levelling the playing field around parental leave: Bringing Maternity Allowance in line with the level of Statutory Maternity Pay, and extending of Statutory Paternity Pay and Statutory Adoption Pay to self-employed people.

  • Database of work substitutes: The creation of a database that self-employed people can use in order to find a reliable substitute for when they need to be away from work. This could be administered by one of the self-employed membership organisations.

  • Training for self-employed people: Help with challenges such as negotiating with clients, understanding rights and entitlements and work or time-management skills can all help self-employed people be more in control of their time and money.

Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, said:

“Self-employed parents can face a real juggling act.

“Working for yourself is often a route parents take to help them balance their work and family life but it can be difficult for them to manage taking time off.

“It is a particular challenge when parents have a new baby which is why they  should be able to get similar support to employees in measures such as parental and adoption pay.  There also needs to be  help and training available to give self-employed parents the confidence to take time off after the birth of a child.”

Since 2011 the proportion of people turning to local Citizens Advice for help who are in work and  self-employed has increased by  50 per cent. In the last year 12,000 self-employed people with dependent children turned to their local Citizens Advice for help, with the most common queries being about benefits, debt and housing.

Who’s the boss? is the first of three reports by Citizens Advice looking at the impact self-employment has on people’s lives and where it can be the root of insecurity.

Notes to editors

  1. Survey conducted by YouGov on 9-15 November 2015 Base: 653 employed, 650 self-employed.
  2. The Citizens Advice service comprises a network of local Citizens Advice, all of which are independent charities, the Citizens Advice consumer service and national charity Citizens Advice. Together we help people resolve their money, legal and other problems by providing information and advice and by influencing policymakers. For more see the Citizens Advice website.
  3. The advice provided by the Citizens Advice service is free, independent, confidential and impartial, and available to everyone regardless of race, gender, disability, sexual orientation, religion, age or nationality.
  4. To get advice online or find your local Citizens Advice in England and Wales, visit citizensadvice.org.uk
  5. You can get consumer advice from the Citizens Advice consumer service on 03454 04 05 06 or 03454 04 05 05 for Welsh language speakers.
  6. Local Citizens Advice in England and Wales advised 2.5 million clients on 6.2 million problems in 2014/15. For full service statistics see our publication Advice trends.
  7. Citizens Advice service staff are supported by more than 21,000 trained volunteers, working at over 2,500 service outlets across England and Wales.