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Shared Parental Leave: Self-employed People

Volume 649: debated on Tuesday 20 November 2018

6. What recent representations he has received on introducing shared parental leave for self-employed people. (907696)

My Department and the Department for Work and Pensions recently met Parental Pay Equality, which is campaigning to extend shared parental pay to self-employed parents through changes to maternity allowance. We are exploring ways to support self-employed parents further.

I thank the Minister for that answer. Has she read the recent “Balancing Act” report from Birkbeck University and Parents in Performing Arts, which shows that 72% of freelancers would like to take shared parental leave if they were allowed to? This policy would not cost anything, but it would improve equality and productivity at the same time. Will she—not just officials—undertake to meet the parental pay and leave campaign and listen to my hon. Friend the Member for Batley and Spen (Tracy Brabin), who has a ten-minute rule Bill on this issue?

I will always engage with anyone who has a view on this particular issue. We are evaluating shared parental leave and pay to look at the barriers to take-up, including those affecting self-employed people and mothers, particularly, who qualify for maternity allowance. We are currently evaluating that and we will be reporting on that next year. However, I will meet with those people.

I recently met Mike Watkinson from Nottinghamshire’s Federation of Small Businesses to discuss a number of challenges facing business in Mansfield, one of which was support and access to benefits for self-employed people. Does my hon. Friend agree that, as the party of business, it is absolutely vital that we help small business owners and support them to keep the show on the road when they need it?

Self-employment does allow the flexibility that some employed workers are unable to take advantage of, but it is right that we work on this and consider the consequences for the self-employed and small businesses. When we are evaluating and looking at how we move forward—as this Government are committed to doing—it is right that we look at this in the round, in the context of tax, benefit and other such things, but particularly, to support small businesses to continue providing the employment that we need.

I thank my colleague and friend, my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff West (Kevin Brennan), for raising this question. On my ten-minute rule Bill on shared parental leave, the Minister will have heard across the House the frustration with the Taylor review—that it has been a year and a half and we have not had any implementations of those recommendations. This was one of them; it is cost-neutral. Does the Minister agree that this could be the engine of change—it could be the outlier—that actually gets those recommendations put into place?

I am grateful to the hon. Lady for highlighting this issue through her Bill. We have not yet had the opportunity to debate it, but I know she met Ministers earlier in the year to discuss it. She has mentioned the Taylor review. We are committed in the very near future to doing that, and we are considering self-employment, especially with regard to shared parental leave, how we can benefit and more people taking it up.