HR · 25 January 2019

Self-employed left in the cold by new workplace protections for parents

As many as 54,000 women lose their jobs due to pregnancy or maternity every year

New proposals to protect pregnant women and new parents from unfairly losing their jobs have overlooked self-employed workers, according to the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB).

The government has today launched a new consultation on plans to extend the legal protections against redundancy for pregnant women and new mothers so that it continues for six months after they return to work.

The proposals were put forward alongside new research published by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) that found one in nine women said they had been fired or made redundant when they returned to work after having a child, or were treated so badly they felt forced out of their job.

BEIS research revealed that as many as 54,000 women lose their jobs due to pregnancy or maternity every year.



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Announcing the consultation, prime minister Theresa May said it was “unacceptable” that many new parents encounter difficulties when returning to work.

“Today’s proposals are set to provide greater protection for new parents in the workplace, and put their minds at ease at this important time,” she added.

Left out in the cold

However, small business groups have claimed sole traders and the self-employed remained at a disadvantage when having children.

“Once again the self-employed have been overlooked by this government,” said FSB chairman Mike Cherry.

While Cherry broadly welcomed the government’s attempts to bring more rights to parents, he said the efforts must include “meaningful support for the self-employed”.

“Sole traders who take the step into parenthood continue to be left out in the cold,” he added.

“Self-employed mothers are entitled to less statutory pay than their employee counterparts. Self-employed fathers are entitled to none at all.

“And – despite there being more than 1,000 children waiting on the adoption register, requiring expensive foster care placements – the government provides no support for self-employed people who want to adopt.”

Cherry cited research suggesting support for self-employed adopters in-line with self-employed mothers would only add £5m in costs to the Treasury.

“The government needs to spend more time thinking about our 4.8 million-strong self-employed community, not just employees.”

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Praseeda Nair is the editorial director of Business Advice, and its sister publication for growing businesses, Real Business. She's an impassioned advocate for women in leadership, and likes to profile business owners, advisors and experts in the field of entrepreneurship and management.