Self Employment and Paternity Leave Needs to Change

Talking about self employed paternity leave and maternity leave as well as shared parental leave, and how it needs to change.

My husband and I started our business in 2007, the year before we got married. It’s not easy running a small business in today’s economy, where everything you can dream of can be bought online with the click of a button from massive shops like Amazon. We have managed to make our business a success by being available to offer expert help and advice, often at unreasonable hours, by delivering things to local customers and often spending hours after the shop is closed helping them set up. And through it all, sometimes we come home at less than minimum wage. But we work with animals, and you do that for love and passion, and as long as we’re paying the bills, we’ll keep going as I know we’re helping people and making a difference to our local community. We love our business and our jobs!

So in short, we’re both self employed.

When I found out I was pregnant, I knew it would be tough financially, but at the same time, am grateful for the fact that as a self employed worker, I was entitled to take maternity allowance for 39 weeks. It’s not exactly a lot of money – £145.18 at the time of writing per week. Not enough to live off by any stretch of the imagination, but we knew that we could tighten our budget and make ends meet. Maternity options are a little more limited for those who are self employed as you don’t have a company maternity policy to fall back on, but on the whole I’m not complaining about them.

Talking about self employed paternity leave and maternity leave as well as shared parental leave, and how it needs to change.

Why do dads not quality for self employed paternity leave?

What I didn’t realize before I was pregnant is that there is no self employed paternity allowance. Not two weeks. Not one week. Not a single day.

You can find more about who is entitled to what on the government Paternity Pay and Leave page, but the basic spoilers are if you’re unemployed, self employed, or work for an agency, you’re getting zilch.

I experienced a very traumatic birth and then for the icing on the cake, contracted sepsis, whilst the baby had a severe infection that required 7 days of IV antibiotics. I was in the hospital for two weeks, during which time I was so weak I couldn’t even hold my son for more than a few minutes at a time. I was hooked up to an IV drip 24/7 and at one point had 5 IV points in both arms. I couldn’t hold the baby to feed him and my milk never came through even enough to manually express or pump. My husband did every single night feed for the first 2 weeks – that’s every 2 hours, whilst popping home to sleep in the day when my mum came and helped. How is he supposed to do that whilst working?

During this time he didn’t qualify for any paternity leave at all. Once I was home, he couldn’t afford to take off a full day to spend with us, yet recovering from an emergency c-section and sepsis, he was still doing a lot of the night feeds and being an absolute super dad, running himself ragged at home and work. He did an amazing job at holding down the fort from all sides, but now I think back on it I realize it would have been so much easier if we’d had a small extra financial net for those few weeks. That could even have gone towards paying other employees to work extra hours.

During this time, I was visited by the midwives and the health visitor at home and was constantly asked how are you doing? How are you feeling? How are you coping? How is your mood? Did they ask about my husband’s mood and how he was coping? No. A lack of paternity leave definitely takes a mental and physical toll on dad and why is that somehow brushed under the carpet?

Did you know that according to the 2014 Fatherhood Institute Research Summary on Paternity Leave, dads who take paternity leave in the UK are 25% more likely to change nappies and 19% more likely to feed their 8-12 month old babies. That suggests that the bond and structure of the father and child are set quite early – but can have longer lasting impacts than you’d think. Paternity leave is strongly associated with mother’s well being and it has been proven to affect the mother’s first three months quite strongly and can even affect rates of post natal depression.

In a progressive country such as the UK, 2 weeks paternity leave (the legal amount for employed dads) doesn’t seem enough. But if you’re self employed, you don’t even get that.

Paternity leave seems like an afterthought, and someone forgot to think about the self-employed dads out there.

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank my husband for being amazing. The best life partner and father I could have hoped for.

Talking about self employed paternity leave and maternity leave as well as shared parental leave, and how it needs to change.

Why do dads not qualify for self employed shared parental leave?

Even if mum is working a traditional job and qualifies for maternity leave, she cannot then share that parental leave with a self employed husband. He too has to be traditionally employed to qualify. If I wanted to go back to work early and let my husband take care of his son, we’d both be entitled to nothing. I’d have to give up my maternity pay and he’d get nothing.

If you’re a father and you run a business, you qualify for absolutely nothing.

This puts the entire burden of childcare on the mother – who is often recovering from the birth or still in the hospital. It denies fathers and families the extra financial support that traditionally employed families get and it means that dad has absolutely no time to bond with his child unless he can afford to take unpaid time off.

When thinking about the continuing gender pay gap and gender inequality in the workplace, it’s clear that most employers will still assume that women are a much higher risk for investment – being likely to take time off for children in the future. This affects hiring rates for women. The time that women need to take off work affects their career progression and contributes to the gender pay gap. If both paternity leave and shared parental leave were improved, it could improve the quality and equality for all women in the workplace as well as improving family life.

Shared parental leave was only introduced in 2015, so hopefully in the future it will be adjusted to encompass self employed parents as well. At the time, Nick Clegg, then deputy prime minister, said the introduction of shared parental leave would “sweep away those Edwardian rules which still hold back those families working hard to juggle their responsibilities at home and work” but to us, there is a stark inequality between men and women and employed and self employed.

My husband sacrificed his finances and his health to help me around the clock when I needed it, but not every dad is able to do that and still pay the bills.

It needs to change. Men, women and entire families are suffering because of this inequality.

Please share this on social media to raise awareness and consider emailing your local MP about the issue. This will only change if enough voices can be heard demanding equality for all.

 

 

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22 thoughts on “Self Employment and Paternity Leave Needs to Change

  1. Bethany says:

    I couldn’t agree more with you, I think the dads should have paternity payed for, just as the women do (even though it’s not much – but every little helps) .. I mean what if the dads were single ..? Or the woman wanted to go back to work and so on and so forth. I think it’s time for a change ??

  2. Kristie Prada says:

    I didn’t realise that Dads didn’t qualify for this. How awful! I don’t know how you coped after the birth with those complications. Well even after a C-section! I’ve had two emergency ones with complications and there’s no way you can safely do everything. Things definitely need to change. I think the mindset is changing for employed Dads in large firms but such a shame that this is not mirrored in self employment.

  3. Yaya says:

    Brilliant post – really enjoyed reading it. I agree – my other half recently became self-employed and we haven’t had a baby yet but it is definitely something I am concerned about. I’ll be keeping tabs on your site for further news!

  4. Emma says:

    This is a disgraceful situation! I can’t believe this is even a thing to write about in this day and age of equality. Your husband is amazing for what he did. I hope you are all feeling better now. X

  5. Emma McCarthy says:

    Oh my goodness, firstly I wanted to say I’m so sorry for what you went through. You and your husband are absolute troopers for getting through it, he is amazing for everything he did. Dads really should get more than 2 weeks and if self employed they need financial protection so they can be there during the first few important months. I feel as though family support gets tossed aside in this country. I know it’s common thing for self-employed dads to lose out on that time and it’s awful.

    • Christy - WelshMum says:

      Thanks Emma. It’s just so funny sometimes that the government has committed to saying they are giving extra family support and talking about equality between mums and dads with shared parental leave, and then fail to mention “unless you’re self employed and then we don’t care!”

  6. Emma T says:

    Self employment is confusing. Really all parents should be able to have that 2 weeks off. But for self employment, many can’t take that time off if it’s just them. My OH is a farmer, it’s his business, and apart from sitting in hospital from my waters breaking until being kicked out in the evening after I’d had N, he was back at work. He took time off to take me for my check up with the midwive, and that was it. Thankfully my mum lived near so came over to help (I’d had a csection), but if he didn’t work, the animals wouldn’t get fed. He has noone else to do the work. I suppose despite the cs, I had an easy time of it, plus breastfeeding didn’t work, so he could feed N every breakfast feed while I showered. But even if pat leave existed, he (and many others I suspect) wouldn’t take it

    • Christy - WelshMum says:

      That sounds really tough. I’m glad your mum was close to help. I had a lot of support from mine too. My husband works with animals too and they need to be fed and cleaned and watered every day of the year so taking a real break is definitely tough. He does employ other people though so at least he’s lucky there, as if there is the money to spare, he can bump up the hours of the other workers for a bit.

  7. Ruth - Mummy and the Mexicans says:

    I had no idea about maternity/paternity leave when you’re self-employed. Its like their being penalised for being sellf- employed. There should definitely be more equality. Unfortunately Mexico is not so progressive, I’ve never heard of any kind of paternity leave here, maternity leave only exists if you are employed and even then you will be expected to go back to work before your baby is two months old! #kcacols

  8. Ali Duke says:

    What an amazing man you have there. There should be something in place for self-employed fathers, it is not right that they don’t have the same rights as traditionally employed people.
    #KCACOLS

  9. Cassie says:

    I didn’t realise this. My hubs is self employed. Sorry to hear the start of bubs life was so traumatic for you all too.

    #KCACOLS

  10. Clare says:

    There’s defiantly need for change. My husband is self employed and never really took any time off when our girls were tiny. Your stories sound pretty frightening even and a super dad indeed #KCACOLS

  11. Kate Eccles says:

    I had no idea that self employed Dad’s don’t get any paternity pay, this needs to be changed and brought into line with statutory paternity leave and pay for employees. #KCACOLS

  12. Maria says:

    Completely agree that dads should have longer paternity. My husband is self-employed and took a week off when I had my eldest and only one day when I had my youngest. This was more due to work load rather than pay though. #KCACOLS

  13. Clare says:

    OMG surely this is not the case… I had no idea. That is bloody crazy. Dad’s help in so many ways and it is so important they help mum and bond with the baby. How bloody ridiculous, this needs to change! #KCACOLS

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