UK Music CEO and Olga Fitzroy call for parental leave reforms

Michael Dugher and MPG executive director and Coldplay sound engineer Olga Fitzroy have hit out at the ‘manifestly unfair’ situation facing self-employed parents.

As a large proportion of music industry workers are self-employed, UK Music have placed the #SelfieLeave campaign at the heart of its party conference season in a bid to push for parental leave reforms.

In a continued drive to convince the government to update shared parental leave and pay rules to include those in the creative industries, Dugher and Fitzroy have penned a joint article that outlines the difficulties facing self-employed parents in the music industry and how they might be resolved.

Read the full article:

We can work it out: reforms to shared parental leave urgently needed to give self-employed fair rights

Whether you are involved in the live sector, working in the studio as a musician, part of a production team or working in a variety of other roles throughout the music industry, the chances are you need to be flexible when it comes to both when and where you work.

It’s much harder to be flexible however when you become a parent. Everyone has to make tough choices when it comes to balancing career and caregiving, however for the 4.7 million self-employed workers in the UK, becoming a parent means some choices are already made for you. Their number include the 72 percent of those working in music, performing and visual arts.

At present, self-employed parents have no way of sharing parental leave in the same way as other workers. Changing the rules would allow parents greater flexibility over childcare decisions, help close the gender pay gap, enable mothers to maintain successful careers and give fathers the chance to care for their children.

The Government is preparing for a consultation on all aspects of family-friendly working, including parental leave, neonatal leave and flexible work but we need the Government to urgently update the rules on shared parental leave and pay to include self-employed parents in the creative industries and across the workforce.

There is growing support within Parliament for these changes. Labour MP Tracy Brabin put forward legislation and Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson has also pressed for reforms to how parental leave works.

It’s fantastic to have the support from so many within the creative industries for these changes – whether that’s stars like Coldplay’s Chris Martin or singer-songwriter Laura Marling. But we need the legislators to end a manifestly unfair situation which sees self-employed parents penalised for having a baby.

For too long, self-employed issues have been dismissed by successive legislators and officials as ‘too complicated’ and never really addressed, but this has real life consequences, as Olga FitzRoy explains:

‘Shortly after I had my son, I was offered a three-week gig recording an album with a well-known artist. Though sleep deprived, I would have relished getting back into my natural environment of the studio, and my husband was more than ready to be the main caregiver for that time.

‘However, as we looked more closely at the regulations on Maternity Allowance, it turns out I would have had to cancel all of my Maternity Allowance had I taken this job.

‘I couldn’t take shared parental leave and swap caring roles with my husband – if I wanted to do this job, I would have to cancel all my maternity leave there and then, and put my baby in full-time childcare, and this was not something I was prepared to do when my son was only three-months-old.

‘Had we been able to share leave I could have taken the job and my husband could have stayed at home to look after our son for that period. Having that album credit under my belt may well have led to more work and would certainly have been a good calling card on my return to ‘full-time’ work.

‘As it was, it took a good 18 months to be back up to pre-baby levels of work, and I firmly believe that much of this was down to effectively being forced out of the labour market for a long period of time.

‘Having shared parental leave would solve this problem without costing the government any extra money and allow thousands of women a more successful return to work, and fathers more time with their children.”

The Government needs to be much quicker to respond and help self-employed parents play a far bigger role in the workforce and show it has a genuine commitment to family-friendly employment policies.

There is significant under-representation of women in certain areas of the music industry, and other sections of the creative industries, and we risk losing talent because of an out-of-date system that forces them to be the main caregiver.

The current system of Maternity Allowance for the self-employed places the entire burden of childcare onto the mother and offers no financial support for self-employed fathers or same-sex partners wanting to share childcare.

To hammer home the urgent need for Government action, we will be taking our #SelfieLeave campaign to the party conferences with a series of events to highlight the problem.

Change to help self-employed working parents in the creative industries and across the economy are long overdue. It’s high time the Government implemented these badly needed reforms and helped us continue to grow the music industry that already contributes £4.5 billion to the UK economy.

The Government says it is serious about backing families, the self-employed and our creative industries. Further proof of that would be to back these reforms and bring forward these changes as swiftly as possible.

For more information about the #SelfieLeave campaign, please visit ukmusic.org and parentalpayequality.org.uk.

 

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