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MPs to debate plans to extend shared parental leave to self-employed

Tracy Brabin (centre) outside parliament to support the Shared Parental Leave and Pay (Extension) Bill. Photo Blake Ezra Tracy Brabin (centre) outside parliament to support the Shared Parental Leave and Pay (Extension) Bill. Photo Blake Ezra
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Legislation that could help prevent theatre workers from being forced out of the industry when they have children has taken its first steps to becoming law.

Labour MP and former actor Tracy Brabin formally submitted the Shared Parental Leave and Pay (Extension) Bill to parliament today (February 21), which would enable self-employed parents to split parental leave and pay between them.

Brabin told The Stage this would have far-reaching benefits within the performing arts and help stem the flow of people quitting their careers once they have children because the cost is too great.

“So many people are leaving the industry because they just can’t afford it – they can’t pay their bills. We are losing the percentage of creatives who have different voices, different accents. It’s for them that I am doing this,” she said.

At present, mothers who work freelance are entitled to statutory maternity pay of £140.98 per week. However, they must take this all in one go and risk losing their payments if they undertake work outside the allocated 10 ‘keeping in touch days’. Self-employed fathers are not currently afforded any parental leave or pay.

The bill would allow both parents to split leave and pay in blocks between them. It would be an extension to legislation that already allows this practice for employed parents.

Speaking at a photo call ahead of the bill’s submission, Brabin said factors such as job instability, fewer rights and lower pay already put freelancers in a less secure place than those in full-time employment when considering having children.

“The idea of starting a family when you’re freelance is so daunting, but if you knew that you had that £140 per week at least you have some security and some money coming in. It doesn’t sound a lot but it can be the difference between losing your house and keeping it,” she said.

The photo call, held outside the Houses of Parliament, was attended by MPs including Jess Phillips and Barbara Keeley, union Equity and industry organisations such as Parents in Performing Arts, of which Brabin is an ambassador.

PIPA co-founder Cassie Raine said: “We must support and encourage men to take an equal share of childcare if we are to achieve long-term gender equality. If a father is unable to take time off to look after his child, the message about who is responsible for childcare is clear.

“Raising a child is a shared responsibility and as such our legislation and working practices must reflect that. Extending shared parental pay to the self-employed is the first step towards that.”

The bill is due to receive a second reading on May 11.

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