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Maternity leave as a freelancer in the UK: How it works

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Maternity leave as a freelancer in the costume and wardrobe world can seem extremely overwhelming and confusing, so we thought we’d shed some light on the matter.

Balancing numerous freelance contracts in one go is like spinning plates in a circus as it is, without having to worry about the intricacies of maternity leave.

The system in the UK does not make it immediately obvious for new parents-to-be, which is why it’s good to get clued up on what you’re entitled to as soon as possible.

There are many advantages to being a freelancer in general; being able to manage your own time, flexibility and sometimes remote working- all of which could be beneficial to a new mum.

However, it is often thought that if you’re not a paid employee, directly attached to a company or business that you’re maternity leave rights may be compromised, but actually, that’s not the case.

Many freelance parents do not realise they are entitled to any kind of maternity leave pay –  and that’s the good news, as you most definitely are.

The bad news (and it’s not too bad really) is that it involves a little bit of maths and filling out a few forms to get through the red tape. Dull and potentially a little bit painstaking, but absolutely worth it.

Although we have researched this thoroughly please keep in mind that legislation around entitlement can change and these details are our understanding of the situation in the UK as of May 2019. Please do your own research.

So here’s what you’re entitled to:

You can’t claim for Statutory Maternity Pay (this is what you get if you are in a permanent role with a company), but you can apply for Maternity Allowance.

This is a weekly entitlement of: £145.18 (at the time of writing, spring 2019), however, the government stipulates there are also a few criteria you have to meet to be eligible.

Here’s what they require:

For 66 weeks before the baby’s due date, you need to have been registered as self-employed for at least 26 weeks beforehand.

You need to have earnt at least £30 a week in 13 of any of those weeks and paid class 2 NI contributions for at least 13 of those weeks too.

What happens if I don’t meet the criteria?

If you haven’t met the outlined criteria, don’t panic, you may still be entitled to the £27 weekly option instead- which is not a lot, we know.

In this situation – and in particular if it’s because of NI contributions – it’s a good idea to give HMRC a call, as we have heard of freelance mums topping up their payments to meet the threshold, therefore unlocking the larger weekly payment entitlement.

How does it work?

Now here comes the really boring bit – everyone’s favourite, the form filling stage – but crucial to making sure you get what you’re entitled to ahead of your baby’s arrival.

Go to the government’s website to fill out this form: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/maternity-allowance-claim-form and ask your midwife for the MAT B1 form (if they haven’t given it to you already).

As soon as you are 26 weeks pregnant, you can decide when you want to start the payments (you can start anywhere from week 29).

You are then entitled to 39 weeks of paid Maternity Allowance, but it’s extremely important to note you cannot take any paid freelance work within this time as it will affect your eligibility.

However, regardless of whether you are a freelancer or employed with a company, you get 10 KIT days – AKA ‘Keep In Touch’ days, where you go into work or take on a freelance job (on a per day basis) to touch base with your work life.

These are optional, but could be a good way of balancing any short periods of freelance work during your maternity leave should you wish to do so.

What about fathers?

Unfortunately at time of writing, there is no government funding for an equivalent Paternity Allowance – fathers would only be eligible for this through a permanent, contracted place of work.

Hopefully as more people work as freelancers and in self-employed roles, the system will expand to become more flexible accommodating to support a diverse workforce.

Have you had any issues while pregnant and balancing freelance work? If you have any stories or tips to share, please leave a comment or post on our Kozzii community page to start a conversation.

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