Do Freelancers Get Paternity Pay?

Freelancing is exciting and liberating for so many different reasons, but being self-employed does mean you miss out on some of the statutory benefits of working for an employer – such as maternity or paternity pay. Unfortunately, there isn’t much support available for freelancers in the UK taking paternity leave so there’s extra pressure to think about what your options are.

How do I plan paternity leave as a freelancer?

Preparing for parental leave as a freelancer is no mean feat, and sadly can be tougher than it is for employees who have statutory rules in place to protect them.

Planning ahead can help you minimise the impact on your finances and freelance career whilst you take some time out to welcome the new addition.

Decide how much time you want to take off

The first thing you need to do is to decide how much time you want to take off. That’s one of the luxuries of being your own boss – you have more flexibility to choose how long your paternity leave is. Plus, if you want to extend it, you can – as long as you communicate clearly and fairly with your clients.


Figure out how much you need to save

Deciding how much time to take off will help you work out how much money you need to save to cover loss of earnings during that period – which will, in turn, make your next steps clearer.

You may already have a substantial nest egg, in which case, great! If not, you may need a strategy to take on more work pre-paternity, or to rearrange existing projects to accommodate your needs.

Financial support options for freelancers on paternity leave

Freelancers don’t have access to the same paternity benefits as employees, but there are other financial avenues you could explore.

Do some research to find out if you’re eligible for child tax credit or child benefits while you’re not able to earn through your freelance business.

This will help protect your cash flow and ease financial pressures until you can get back to business.

How can I prepare my business before I go off on paternity leave?

To prep your business and your clients for a period of paternity leave, here are some important action points to tick off your to-do list ahead of time.

Notify your clients

Communicate your paternity plan with your clients as early and as transparently as possible. This will limit stress and help make the transition process as smooth as possible for everybody involved.

Set automated responses

Wherever you can, set automatic responses up for when you’re ‘out of office’ (e.g. email, social media, etc.). It’s also a good idea to leave a note in your email footer, ahead of time, to warn people in advance of when you’re going to be harder to reach and how long for.

Create and pin a social media post

Share an update on your social media accounts and where possible, pin it to the top of your profile so anybody visiting your page will be sure to see it.

Share an update on your website

Leave an update somewhere on your website too so any visitors there will be made aware that you’re on leave. A great place to do this is on a small banner at the top of your website if you want to keep your site running as normal. Alternatively, you could set up a redirect page with a custom message so that your website can’t be accessed while you’re ‘out of action’.

If you operate an ecommerce site or sell through an online platform, for example, you might want to set your profile to ‘holiday mode’, so that customers can place orders on the understanding that you won’t be able to supply anything until you’re return.

It depends on how unavailable you want or need to be during paternity.

Plan your return to work in advance

Plans might go out of the window once the new baby arrives, but it’s still worth putting a proposed timeline in place to give your clients a rough idea of when to expect you back.

It will also provide you and your family with a date to work towards, even if it ends up having to change further down the line.

You could also think about when you might be able to turn your attention to freelance work during your paternity leave period.

Perhaps there is one day a week, or an hour or so a day, that you could reply to emails or join meetings, for instance. Just remember to be realistic and go easy on yourself because juggling a new baby with freelance work isn’t always advisable.

Communicate your return date clearly

When posting updates and setting auto-responses, make sure to state your planned return date clearly so your clients know when to expect you to resume work.

Showing this level of consideration for their plans and their project pipeline will demonstrate that you care about them and how your situation is impacting them too.

What should I do with my freelance business while I’m on paternity?

Something you could consider is hiring paternity cover for while you’re away.

This could be a friend or family member to manage non-specialist admin, or even another freelancer to take over project-based work in your absence.

The pros and cons of paternity cover

When you have clients who need hands-on attention, the prospect of leaving them while on paternity can be stressful.

That’s why some freelancers opt for paternity cover. However, it is crucial to safeguard your business in the process.

The benefits of paternity cover include:

  • Minimal disruption for your clients and therefore minimal disruption to your working arrangement with them.
  • Paternity cover can keep your projects ticking over so you can simply pick back up where you left off when you’re ready.
  • With cover to help, it will be easier for you to dip in and out of work as and when you find some spare time during your leave.

As well as the cost implications of paternity cover though, there are also a couple of other things to think about carefully, such as your professional reputation. Make sure you hire high-quality, reputable people who will work to the standard you would deliver yourself.

Another thing to consider is that there’s a risk anybody covering for you might poach your clients in your absence. Of course, if you work with people you trust implicitly, the risk becomes much lower, so choose carefully if paternity cover is something you want to try.

Whoever you choose to work with, put a contract in place so that there’s an official agreement between you and them. This will help prevent the risk of your clients being stolen from you while you’re on paternity leave.

Find even more advice and guidance for freelancers in our info hub.

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