Maternity Rights for the Self Employed
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We live in a brave new world where very many of us are on short-term contracts, working through agencies or are self-employed. Sometimes the line between what constitutes being employed or not is a fine one. In broad terms, if you are on the payroll, have a contract that describes you as an 'employee', and the employer controls when and where you work and provides you with the equipment to do so, then you are employed. It follows that if these elements are absent, you are not an employee, and thus your rights when pregnant are different. In practice this tends to mean that the self-employed have fewer benefits than the employed, particularly in relation to payments, and so self-employed women often find themselves returning to work sooner than their employed peers.
So what rights do the pregnant self-employed have?
Don't despair. It is not all doom and gloom. Self-employed women may, depending on their individual circumstances, be entitled to the following;
- Maternity Allowance. If you are registered as self-employed, pay class 2 national insurance contributions or hold a small earnings exemption certificate, you are likely to be entitled to Maternity Allowance. To qualify, you must also have worked for at least 26 of the 66 weeks prior to the week your baby is due. Maternity Allowance is currently paid at a rate of £123.06 a week or 90% of your average weekly pre-tax earnings, whichever is the lower. This is paid for a maximum of 39 weeks and is not subject to tax or national insurance deductions. Register your claim before you are 26 weeks pregnant. You can do this by completing an MA1 form, available online or at your local JobCentre Plus.
- Health in Pregnancy grant.This is a one off payment of £190 payable on receipt of advice from a health professional on keeping healthy during pregnancy. See you doctor or midwife for more information.
- Child Tax Credit. Households with an annual income of less than £66,000 are entitled to child tax credit.
- Risk Assessments and Discrimination protection. As with employed women, whomever you are working for while pregnant is obliged to carry out a workplace risk assessment and to take steps to minimise hazards. You are also able to claim sex discrimination at an Employment Tribunal if you are treated unfairly as a result of becoming pregnant, for example, if your usual employer doesn't renew a contract upon discovering that you are pregnant. For more information about pregnancy discrimination, see Pregnancy Discrimination: your rights.
A special case: Fixed-Term Contract workers
Some industries are renowned for only employing contractors in this way, denying often skilled and highly qualified people a degree a security that is afforded others who work in different fields. Thankfully, there are now circumstances in which women who have always worked under these conditions may now be able to claim some maternity rights. If you have worked for the same employer continuously, for four years or more, on a series of rolling fixed-term contracts, you will now get employee rights, including maternity entitlements, under the Fixed-term Employees (Prevention of Less Favourable Treatment) Regulations 2002.