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Self-employed mothers earn less

?Just 20% of self-employed mothers are earning as much as they did before they had children

The figure compares to 26% of the workforce as a whole, who return to their previous earnings by the time their child reaches their second birthday. This is according to research by Parental Pay Equality and Organise.

Stagnating earnings among self-employed mothers are not due to voluntarily working less, the research suggested. As many as 78% of those surveyed stated they wanted to work longer, in comparison to just 10% of part-time female workers with children.

The research highlighted lack of government support as an important factor. More than half of both men and women (51%) said that being eligible for shared parental leave would make the biggest difference to their family, as the self-employed are currently eligible.

Olga FitzRoy, a self-employed music producer and founder of Parental Pay Equality, said: “This research shows that self-employed parents want to continue to work and grow their businesses after they have a family, but it is an outdated sexist system that expects women to do all the childcare that is holding them back. The government could make a big difference to these families by simply making the maternity allowance shareable between men and women, at no extra cost to the taxpayer.”

Julia Waltham, head of policy and campaigns at Working Families, agreed that further government support was needed, and called for greater protection for the self-employed.

“The self-employed have the fewest rights," she told HR magazine. "Making them eligible for shared parental leave and affording them flexibility around how they share care with their partner, as well as introducing statutory paternity pay for self-employed fathers, will go some way towards tackling the inequality in access to rights that has developed in the UK labour market."

She added: “Not all parents are self-employed because it fits in with their lifestyle or the kind of work they do. Tackling the inappropriate and exploitative use of enforced self-employment by rogue employers, and levelling the playing field across employment contracts around access to parental rights, is vital.”

Labour MP Tracy Brabin, who currently has a Bill in parliament to give shared parental leave and pay to the self-employed, added that legislation is 'long overdue'.

“The time for introducing shared parental leave for freelancers is long overdue," she said. "It’s clear from this important research that many freelance mums want to work more and that the amount of work they can take can be affected by childcare commitments."

The Parental Pay Equality/Organise survey questioned 143 men and women in families where at least one partner was self-employed.