The House of Commons is considering a bill to extend shared parental leave to parents who are self employed. 

A demonstration took place today, led by the Parental Pay Equality organisation and supported by "UK Music" to encourage MPs to support the Shared Parental Leave and Pay (Extension) Bill which was put forward by Tracy Brabin MP and has become known as the "#SelfieLeave Bill".

Since April 2015, on the birth or adoption of a child, employed parents have been able to share parental leave  and pay between the mother/adopter and her partner, so that childcare responsibilities in the first year can be shared. However, this right is currently not available to self employed parents.

If a mother is self employed, she would not be entitled to received statutory maternity pay but provided that she meets certain eligibility criteria she would instead be entitled to receive statutory maternity allowance (at the same rate as statutory maternity pay after the first 6 weeks). However, unless her partner is employed she cannot currently share parental leave and pay with her partner. 

Many rights afforded to employees are not provided to self employed workers, on the basis that they are contributing less to the National Insurance fund. However, in the case of shared parental leave, the leave and pay is available to an eligible mother in any event, therefore if she is given the option to share it with her partner, this would be cost neutral.

Given that a self employed mother can receive maternity allowance, it seems a strange anomaly that the child's father (or mother's partner) who is self employed cannot take advantage of shared parental leave. By allowing the parents to decide which of them should take the leave (or in which proportion  to take the leave), which may depend on a number of personal factors, including where they are in their careers and their current level of earnings, couples will have far greater freedom as to the bringing up of their child, which will not automatically have to be the main responsibility of the mother. 

This would be a great help to the many and increasing numbers of parents who are self employed and will also be a useful step towards tackling the gender pay gap.