The boom in self-employed working mothers is nothing to celebrate

Time is money.
Time is money.
Image: Reuters/David Gray
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There’s been a boom in working mothers becoming self-employed in Britain. At first glance, that looks like a good solution to gaining flexible working hours and becoming your own boss. According to a new report by Kingston University and the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self Employed (IPSE), the number of mothers who are freelancing has doubled since 2008, to around 594,000.

“These results show just how useful and important self-employment can be for women who want to work and spend time with their children,” said Corinne Stuart, IPSE’s head of commercial development. “In the last eight years, more women than ever before have recognized how invaluable the flexibility of self-employment can be, allowing them to both earn an income and spend time with their children. For many, it is also vital means of moving back into the workforce.”

Sure, self-employed working mothers may be able to pick when they want to work to fit around the raising of their child. How many really choose that avenue for their career path?

Not all freelancers do it out of choice. In the UK, a study by law firm Slater & Gordon showed that more than 40% of managers avoid hiring women of ”childbearing age,” so they don’t have to pay for maternity leave. Another study showed that three-quarters of mothers experience discrimination at work while 11% felt forced to leave their job.

With all this in mind, it’s unsurprising to see the rise in self-employed mothers. While the IPSE identified that self-employment gives “flexibility” and “freedom,” working for yourself means you don’t receive holiday pay, sick pay, a pension, or any other perk or stability that comes with working for a company.

Instead of celebrating the number of working mothers going into self-employment, maybe we should be addressing why they aren’t able to either find job in the first place or be at a company that provides them the flexibility to work as well raise a child.