A UK freelancer's overview of Paternity Rights
As a male freelancer, you have the ability, control and freedom to plan your working life which includes – if relevant -- taking paternity leave to care for your new-born child.
Your eligibility for paternity pay and paternity leave will determine whether it will be financially feasible to take a break from freelancing, or not, writes Keith Tully of RBR Advisory.
If you are an employee with a contract, you will be eligible for statutory paternity pay and paternity leave. As a freelancer, you will not be eligible for paternity leave or paternity pay as self-employed professionals are not protected in the same way as employed professionals. However, if you are a ‘worker,’ you may qualify for paternity pay or leave, depending on your circumstances.
Due to the limited protections which are in place for the self-employed, it can be difficult for a freelancer to plan their working life around pregnancy and caretaking. However, the flexibility granted by freelancing can prove favourable when juggling working life with personal life. As you are able to set your own working hours, rates of pay and select your own clients, you will be able to put measures into place to ensure that your business is well-equipped in your absence. If you decide to take time off work, you will have the flexibility to balance your contractual obligations with clients accordingly.
During this period of time, you may turn towards your ‘war chest’ to fund your time away from work if the period of leave is unexpected. A war chest is typically a pool of funds which have been retained for a rainy day or an unplanned absence.
This ensures that you’re able to afford time off work to support your family. If you are a high-earning freelance sole trader, you may be able to pay yourself more generously than the typical statutory rate of paternity pay which is on offer for employees.
Paternity Leave for employees
In order for employees to qualify for paternity leave, they must:
- Take leave of either one or two weeks in one go
- Work for the same employer for a minimum of 26 weeks by the end of the 15th week prior to the due date
- Be the biological father of the child or the partner of the mother.
When taking paternity leave, a week will comprise of the same working hours you would usually work. If this is typically three days a week, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, a week will be classed as these three days. Note that if your partner has multiple births, for example, twins or triplets, your leave entitlement will remain the same.
You will be required to inform your employer of your intention to take paternity leave by a minimum of 15 weeks before the baby is due. This should state when you intend for your leave to start and how long you will be taking – one or two weeks. You are able to do this informally, but your employer may require you to complete an internal application or a formal application for Statutory Paternity Pay and Leave (SC3).
Statutory Paternity Pay for employees
In order for employees to qualify for paternity pay, they must:
- Work for the employer until the date of the birth
- Earn an average wage of £118 per week
- Agree on the date on which you will begin receiving paternity pay. This should be taken within 56 days from the date of the birth.
Statutory paternity pay currently stands at the same rate as statutory maternity pay and this can be taken from the date of the birth. Notice should be given 15 weeks before the estimated due date of the baby, however, 28 days’ notice should be given if this changes.
Statutory paternity pay currently stands at £148.68 per week, or 90 per cent of your average weekly earnings, whichever is lower. This will receive the same tax treatment as your wages, so tax and NI will be deducted before you receive this payment. If your baby is stillborn at 24 weeks of pregnancy, or after, you will still be eligible for paternity pay.
Shared Parental Leave and Pay
This is often considered when both parents intend to share the role of care-giver and the responsibilities associated with tending to a newborn. Shared or split parental leave can also allow you to better balance financial entitlements and make juggling family life easier.
In some cases, both partners may agree for the father to take paternity leave instead of the mother. This may provide greater financial benefit to the household and give you extra flexibility where required. Many parents take this approach to allow the father to actively participate in the child’s life, more so than societal expectations and traditional gender roles dictate.
In order to successfully qualify for shared parental leave, both partners must:
- Share responsibility for the child at birth
- Have worked for the employer for a minimum of 26 weeks by the end of the 15th week prior to the due date.
- Stay with the same employer while taking Shared Parental Pay
- Earn a minimum of £118 on average per week
There are separate rules for if the mother wants to take shared parental leave and pay and if the mother’s partner wants to take shared parental leave and pay.
Our maternity guide exclusively for FreelanceUK details the Statutory Maternity Pay which is available for pregnant employees. And this guide can help determine the best steps to take in terms of pay, and splitting parental responsibilities.
Mothers who are not eligible for SMP, such as self-employed professionals are typically able to claim maternity allowance, a form of government funding set-out to support those ineligible for SMP. But there is currently no paternity allowance which has been established for men or any legal guidance around taking funds to support contractors, freelancers and sole traders through this period.
Lastly, be aware that as a freelancer, you may be able to claim additional benefits, such as the Sure Start grant of £500 if you’re having your first child and claiming other benefits. You may also be eligible for Working Tax Credit or Child Tax Credit.
Although there are limited protections in place for freelancers, you are able to prepare in advance and select or negotiate the preferred type of contract in the run-up to the birth of your baby. In doing so, you will be able to emotionally and physically support both yourself and your family during this milestone.
This ‘UK Freelancer’s Overview of Paternity Rights’ exclusively for FreelanceUK is written by Keith Tully of the UK’s leading business rescue and turnaround network, RBR Advisory.
20th June 2019