HR · 30 January 2017

Government urged to boost maternity allowance for freelancers

Maternity allowance is currently much lower than statutory maternity pay

A cross-party committee of MPs has responded to demands from self-employed and freelancers for greater maternity support by making it a key priority.

The government should increase allowances in the first six weeks of maternity leave to bring it in line with statutory maternity pay (SMP), The Women and Work All Party Parliamentary Group has concluded.

Enhancing maternity allowance should also be made part of a wider examination of how self-employed people receive treatment for maternity and paternity-related state benefits, said the committee.

The Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed (IPSE) has previously highlighted the necessity of the move, identifying that early maternity allowance is far lower than SMP.

Maternity allowance is made claimable for expectant UK mothers only after they’ve been pregnant for 26 weeks, and is typically only for those who fail to qualify for SMP, IPSE analysis has shown. The amount paid to mothers depends on their eligibility, and amounts to £138.18 a week on average, for 39 weeks.

In a statement, the IPSE’s policy director, Simon McVicker, called on the government to create a “level playing field” for the self-employed on the issue of maternity allowances.

“Fifteen per cent of the entire workforce is self-employed. But employment law and the tax system has not yet caught up,” added McVicker.

Outlining their priorities in a joint statement, committee MPs encouraged the government to “ensure women are better supported back into work” by “upgrading the lesser allowance to become a ‘form of the SMP’”.

The group called for paternity eligibility to reviews in a similar way, suggesting that a boost to the allowance would result in an increase in the number of UK freelancers.

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Fred Heritage was previously deputy editor at Business Advice. He has a BA in politics and international relations from the University of Kent and an MA in international conflict from Kings College London.