For soon-to-be British mothers who are employed full-time, maternity leave is always an option—but for the self-employed, it’s not an ideal route to take.
Freelancers are particularly fearful of losing money or going into financial hardships if they take leave from work, and there is a legitimate reason for this dismay.
Maternity Allowance for the Self-Employed
The current self-employed Maternity Allowance (MA) for pregnant women is £138.18 per week. The payment is usually distributed to workers who make more than £8,000 a year. In order to receive the compensation, they’re required to have worked 26 weeks leading up to their due date.
If a freelancer is paid less than the annual salary, then 90 percent of their weekly earnings will be calculated as the maternity payment.
Those who weren’t employed, or didn’t work the preceding 26 weeks, sometimes never receive the MA.
Unfortunately, self-employed pregnant mothers who earn the same average national salary will always earn less compared to their full-time employed counterparts.
“We get a lot of self-employed people asking if you can work during maternity,” says Mandy Garner, of Working Mums, a job and community site. “People are trying to figure out ways of getting some maternity leave but they can’t afford it so they’re trying to find ways around it. MA is not enough for people to get by on for very long.”
MA Vs. SMP
Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) for employed workers is currently £458.65 per week. They are allowed up to 10 days to check-in with their employer while they’re away. Employed pregnant women can also partake in unlimited self-employed work without being penalized.
Self-employed workers and freelancers, on the other hand, are given the same restrictions, but can immediately put their MA at risk if they exceed the 10 check-in days.
The clear difference between MA and SMP makes some self-employed mothers very nervous. Most freelancers are afraid that the maternity payment amount won’t be enough to survive off of if they decide to take a break from work.
The fact that freelancing involves such a broad scope of jobs—high-paying gigs or online selling— also makes it hard for the field to make its stamp in the workforce, which can be an issue for self-employed freelancers, who do diverse quantities of work.
Other Alternatives Are Out There
However, tax experts say that there are several options that will ensure you’re receiving all the assistance you need while away from the office:
- Claim as many benefits as possible. This includes applying for a maternity exemption certificate, which can provide you with free-of-charge drug prescription and dental service. This benefit can be applied for any time during your pregnancy or 12 months following your baby’s birth.
- Apply for a Sure Start Maternity Grant to help you with small pregnancy expenses. If you’re expecting your first child, multiples, or already receive maternity benefits, this option will work best for you. You can apply for this grant 11 weeks before your due date or three months following the birth. Once qualified, you can expect to receive a payment of £500.
One of the smartest things a pregnant freelancer could do, however, is to prepare for a maternity leave ahead of time.
Saving a few bucks here and there makes things a little less stressful. Therefore, work additional hours, conduct more projects, and charge higher rates.
Make sure you’re well-aware of how long you will be away and have extra funds in the bank to cover that extent of time.