As a self-employed mum who had to go back to work after three months after having baby with no maternity pay, I know only too well the burden that falls on the shoulders of every self-employed mum who doesn’t have a safety net of being employed by a company to fall back on in maternity.
Today I have Dr Kirsty Lau, a Founding GP at GPDQ, the UK’s first doctor-on-demand app (behind the research), highlighting what a travesty this is, the impact it is having on self-employed new mums, and what needs to change to ensure the well-being of self-employed new mums.
As a mum to a 5-year-old daughter, she admits that it’s not an option to have more as she is a locum GP, so only gets paid for the work she invoices for. She has witnessed first-hand the ‘silent suffering’ that exists behind closed doors during the first six weeks of becoming a mum who runs a business.
In the UK, self-employed women receive less maternity pay than their employed equivalents. They receive the same government (state) maternity allowance as people who are employed by a company, however, they do not receive the first 6 weeks of 90% of their annual weekly salary, as employed people do.
This is an injustice that is taking its toll on the health of mothers and their ability to bond with their new child, as 45 percent have no choice but to continue to work as soon as the day after giving birth.
Behind closed doors
When a new mum takes her newborn to the GP for its routine checks, there is no way a GP can see what’s happening day-to-day for that mum – it’s only because we are able to conduct home visits through the GPDQ service, that we have been able to see how big this problem is – and we think that what we have seen is the tip of the iceberg.
Self-employed mums have a lot on their plate, which can induce mental health issues that wouldn’t have arisen if they were able to take time out, or, if like their employed equivalents, could take a reasonable amount of time out to bond with the new baby.
An example is Charlene, a 34-year-old self-employed wedding / family photographer who started her business 7 years ago. She worked 7 days a week before daughter (now aged 2 arrived). After giving birth, her income dropped drastically and is only now slowly creeping back up.
Another self-employed mum whose business and financial income has suffered due to the current maternity pay system, is Layla Griffin – a 35-year-old self-employed costume designer for TV commercials. Layla has been self-employed for 11 years, and after having her son (now aged 22 months), her annual turnover dropped from £80K to £30K.
Mental health issues
To further confirm these issues, myself and a group of NHS GP colleagues conducted a study, which showed that over half (59%) of self-employed mums admit to suffering from mental health issues such as anxiety, general stress or depression, caused by the amount of responsibility associated with running a business and having a newborn.
As part of the study, we asked self-employed mums how equality in maternity pay would have helped, and 91 percent said they would have used the income to draft in extra support, whether that be in the form of childcare to assist with the newborn, or hiring a skilled worker to ease the workload of your business.
Becoming a mum has forced more than a third of new mums to throw the towel in completely (35%) and almost half (43%) considered ceasing trading due to the struggles of running a business and becoming a new mum, but against all odds, they kept going. Out of those who ceased trading, 10 percent went into employment and 20 percent are currently unemployed.
With everything health related, prevention is always better than cure – if new self-employed mums can get maternity pay equal to their employed equivalents it’s at least one way they can get the support they need to enjoy motherhood, and avoid potentially life-threatening issues.
Our study also revealed that even the idea of having a baby made 63 percent of self-employed mums fear for the future, and 67 percent admitted to underestimating the effect a newborn baby would have on their business. These concerns are evident in female start-up figures – In 2015, 126,000 businesses were created by women – down from the 139,000 in 2013.
Below are the top five negative side effects experienced by self-employed new mums who were forced to work immediately after having a baby:
- General stress (67%)
- Inability to relax and enjoy my baby (59%)
- Lack of sleep, through worrying about the business (57%)
- Anxiety (55%)
- Loss of confidence in social or business situations (43%)
Fighting for equality in maternity pay
Too many self-employed mums are suffering in silence behind closed doors. This is why we have come together to launch the ‘Six Weeks Support’ campaign – a petition, which will lobby government to review their maternity pay policy.
The ‘Six Week Support’ campaign will lobby government for the equivalent financial support that an employed new mum receives, for self-employed mums during the first six weeks after having a baby. This financial support will make it more possible for mums to take time out of the business, to enjoy their new child, if only for a short time, before returning to full-time work.
The ‘Six Week Support’ campaign has already attracted support from the UK’s largest post-natal depression charities – The Association for Post-Natal Illness (APNI) and PANDAS.
We are urging everyone to support our campaign, by heading over to www.gpdq.co.uk where, via the blog they can sign the dedicated petition, to lobby government for change.
- GPDQ is the UK’s first GP-on-demand app, that connects its users (patients) directly with a local NHS GP who will visit them within hours at a location of the patient’s choice, may it be their home, workplace or a hotel if they are travelling from abroad. It’s particularly rated by parents looking for a second-opinion, or that extra reassurance relating to their children’s health.
- GPDQ was the first ‘in person’ GP-on-demand app to launch in the UK, and was also the first to achieve CQC approval.
- Patients can request a GP and track their progress from their smartphone, via the GPDQ app (downloadable for iOS or Android) or alternatively, they can call GPDQ, or visit the website to book an appointment.
- Patients receive a full 25-minute consultation with a GMC-registered GP who has undergone GPDQ’s rigorous screening process, and if successful, they then undergo GPDQ’s intensive patient care training programme.
- Since GPDQ’s launch in October 2015, its 45 fully-qualified and practicing NHS GPs have completed 4,000+ appointments across London, Manchester and Birmingham.
- GPDQ was founded by third generation GP and NHS-evangelist Dr Anshumen Bhagat.
- Follow GPDQ on social media on Twitter and Facebook.
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