Self-employed mums in the UK are calling for the government to address inequality in maternity pay. A recent study, led by GPs, has shown that 59% of self-employed mums admit to suffering from mental health issues, caused by being forced to work immediately after giving birth. Not only is having a baby life-changing and at times overwhelming, for these mums not receiving any financial support, it is detrimental to their health and wellbeing.
The ‘Six Weeks Support’ campaign is lobbying the government to give self-employed new mums the same financial support that employed mums receive, 90% of the first six weeks salary. The campaign is completely unique as it has been launched by a group of NHS doctors themselves, who have seen too many new mums suffering in silence.
Self-employed new mums in the study were suffering from:
- 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%)
These mental health issues were caused by the amount of responsibility associated with running a business and having a newborn at the same time. When asked how equality in maternity pay would have helped, 91% said they would have used the income to draft in extra support. So why is it not available?
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 altogether, but against all odds, they kept going.
Dr Kristy Lau, one of the founding GPs behind the doctor-on-demand-app GPDQ explains why the campaign can make a difference:
“In the UK, self-employed women continue to receive 90 percent less maternity pay in the first six weeks than their employed equivalents, an injustice that is taking its toll on the health of the mother and her ability to bond with her new child, as 45 percent have no choice but to continue to work as soon as the day after giving birth.
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.”
Even the idea of having a baby made 63% of self-employed mums fear for the future. Tune into BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour on Wednesday too for more discussion on the topic, or sign the petition here.