Baby no.2 is literally a few weeks away from arriving and the reality of me not taking a maternity leave is really starting to dawn on me. I have to admit, I am starting to worry a teeny bit about how I’m going to actually balance working daily with both a four year old and a newborn baby to look after.
But, there are so many reasons why I won’t be taking maternity leave this time around and I’m going to share a few of those reasons in this post, as well as a few tips on how you CAN take a maternity leave if you are self employed and how I’m going to balance it all.
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Reason 1: We can’t afford it right now
This is one of the main reasons why I’m not taking a maternity leave, which is sad but true. Had our last year panned out differently, I definitely would be taking at least a couple of months off.
Unfortunately our situation this last year has been very unique. My fiancé got diagnosed with cancer back in May, literally a few days before we found out we were unexpectedly pregnant.
He then spent the summer going through gruelling amounts of back to back chemotherapy treatments and I was unexpectedly thrown into the midsts of being the main breadwinner for our family.
That meant that we didn’t have any chance to save up collectively, so that we could live off one wage when it came to baby being born. Aitan’s only just recently overcome cancer (hooray he’s all clear – I cannot even begin to tell you how happy we are) and he’s now just starting his own business (so exciting) which means I’m still temporarily the primary breadwinner until that gets off the ground.
So, tip no.1 if you want to take a maternity leave when you are self employed:
- Save up money so you can take time off!
Reason 2: The UK Governments Maternity Leave System
I honestly cannot get my head around the UK maternity leave system for people who are self-employed. Seriously, why is it such a headache? I’ve spoken to not just tens, but literally 100’s of other self-employed women in the UK and not one person has been able to give me a clear answer on the guidelines surrounding ‘keeping in touch days’ and maternity pay.
In fact, it’s scary just how many other women (literally thousands upon thousands) don’t take a maternity leave because they don’t understand the system. Not even the government could give me a clear answer and I tried speaking to a lot of different officials both online and on the phone!
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You see, when you are employed you can claim maternity pay from your employer or ‘statutory maternity pay’ from the government. You also get given ten ‘KIT days’ otherwise known as keeping in touch days, where you can work at least ten days during your maternity leave, both to bring in some extra money and also to keep in touch with your employers so the transition back to work is easier.
When you are self employed, things are a bit different. Yes you can claim ‘statutory maternity pay’ but its a really small amount and the ‘KIT days’ or ‘keeping in touch days’ where you can potentially work don’t take into account people who work ‘flexible hours’ (which is the majority of people who are self-employed).
So, just as an example…I am a freelance social media manager and a blogger. When it comes to freelancing, I only spend a small amount of hours a month working for clients. I accumulate hours and get paid for them at the end of the month.
So, for one of my clients I work 15 hours a month. This gets broken down into 5 hours a week and I actually only end up working for them for one hour a day, Monday to Friday, updating their social media channels. In the governments eyes this ‘one hour’ is classed as a whole keeping in touch day, and not say 7 hours spread over time (I think 8-9 hours technically make up a day shift when you are employed).
So basically, you aren’t allowed to ‘group together’ hours over a space of time and call it a KIT day. Any type of work you do on one given day (even half an hour) is classed as a whole days work.
The same goes for my blog. 80% of my blog work is ‘free’ and unpaid. It’s me creating posts to keep my audience and brands interested. It’s updating social media accounts with ‘unpaid’ content to keep my community alive. It’s going into my inbox and ‘pitching for potential work’ or replying to ‘leads’ that might turn into work. Only 20% of my blog is paid brand work or sponsored posts.
But in the governments eyes, any time you spend ‘updating social media’, writing posts (even if its not PAID work) or in your inbox pitching for work is classed as a ‘keeping in touch day’. Even if you’re not necessarily paid for anything at the end of it. Confusing right?
If anyone has any clear information about this, please do let me know below and I’ll happily update this post and share it with as many people as I can!
Tip no.2 if you want to take a maternity leave when you are self employed:
- Do your research on maternity pay and keeping in touch days!
Reason 3: I didn’t create systems.
This is one thing I am really kicking myself about and is the one thing I urge anyone who is self-employed to do; create systems for your business.
Can your business run without you? Can you easily outsource what you do to others? If you suddenly needed to take time off work for any reason could you?
If you answered no to all of those questions, you need to implement systems and maybe start outsourcing. I could easily have hired a virtual assistant to help me run my blog and social media services, so I could take a little time off.
- Related post: 10 Ways To Survive As A Work At Home Mum
But, without systems in place, handing over to someone else would literally have been a nightmare. Not one part of my business is automated and thats so bad. My big mission for 2018 is to start automating things and to bring in systems so I can outsource my work if I ever need to take time off again in the future.
Tip no.3 if you want to take a maternity leave when you are self employed:
- Create systems for your business so you can hand it over to someone else!
Reason 4: I spent so long creating my business, I don’t want to lose it.
I am both a blogger and a freelance social media manager. Although I can potentially step away from ‘freelance contracts’ on maternity, I can’t step away from my blog.
It took me five years to build a strong community, a social presence and a readership. If I were to take on the government ‘statutory maternity pay’ I wouldn’t be able to so much as step online and post to Instagram without it being classed as work, even though 80% of my blogging is ‘free’ and only 20% is paid collaborations.
I’ve spent the last five years building a community, a social presence and a readership. If I did take time off from social channels, it would take me a very long time to get them back to what they were and if I don’t produce content (even if its hobby posts), my blog will just fall into the abyss.
So those were a few reasons why I won’t be taking a maternity leave. But, I will definitely be on a mission to find a good work/life balance and I will be posting a lot about my journey and what I come up with both on here and Instagram.
Hopefully some of the systems I come up with will help others in the same position. If you want to see how I’m managing it and the systems I come up with for streamlining both a freelancing service business and a blog, follow me over on Instagram or sign up to my newsletter here!