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Coldplay’s Chris Martin among those demanding shared parental leave for freelancers

By | Published on Tuesday 10 September 2019

Chris Martin

Coldplay’s Chris Martin has again spoken out in favour of changing the rules over parental leave and maternity pay in the UK so that freelancers can also enjoy benefits introduced in 2015 for those in more conventional employment. Trade group UK Music plans to put the spotlight back on the issue during the upcoming party conference season.

A new law in 2015 introduced more flexibility in the way that parents can access parental leave, maternity pay and maternity allowances following the birth of a new child. The aim was to make it easier for fathers as well as mothers to take time off to care for young children, simply by allowing both parents to share the leave and benefits already available, rather than the system assuming that the mother would be the primary carer.

However, those changes only benefit those in conventional employment paid salaries through the PAYE system, partly because the law has always put some of the obligations regarding parental leave and maternity pay onto employers.

Campaigners argue that this puts self-employed parents – or couples where one partner is self-employed – at a disadvantage. Those campaigners say that the new flexibilities should be extended to the self-employed, adding that doing so wouldn’t have financial implications for the state, instead just requiring a change to the system.

All of this is particularly relevant to the music industry because of the high number of self-employed people working in the sector. That’s true across the creative industries, but especially in music. UK Music reckons 72% of those working in the music industry do so on a self-employed basis.

The trade groups says: “At present, self-employed parents have no way of sharing parental leave in the same way as other workers. This is a vital issue for the music industry where almost three out of every four people are self-employed”.

There are plenty of supporters for a change to the law in the political community. Labour MP Tracy Brabin and Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson have both proposed new legislation, while the government has also said it is preparing for a consultation on ‘family-friendly working’, which will include parental leave. Hence UK Music has decided to make this issue a priority at the upcoming party conferences.

Supporting all that, Chris Martin says: “There is no shared parental leave and pay system in place for self-employed parents. That makes it really tough for many of our freelance colleagues and crew when they have children. Let’s change the law so that self-employed mums and dads can choose when to take parental leave”.

Meanwhile UK Music boss Michael Dugher states: “It’s fantastic to have the support of Chris Martin and Coldplay. Self-employed parents working in music and across the creative industries are getting a raw deal. Changes are badly overdue”.

“There is clearly growing support across Parliament for this change”, he adds, “and we are grateful to MPs like Tracy Brabin and Jo Swinson who have led the way on this agenda. UK Music will be taking this campaign to the Conservative, Labour and Lib Dem conferences. We hope Prime Minister Boris Johnson and all political parties will embrace this call for equality to help us continue to grow a music industry that contributes £4.5 billion to the economy”.

Aside from the current system simply being unfair, campaigners say that inequities like this often put women off pursuing careers in those strands of the music industry where self-employment is the norm. That in turn hinders efforts to address the lack of gender diversity in the music business, and especially certain strands of the music business.

That includes on the studio side of the industry. Music Producers Guild Executive Director Olga Fitzroy says: “The present antiquated system means we are losing far too much talent because women continue to be penalised under the current unjust rules that force them into being the main care-giver”.

“Women are woefully under-represented in music production and other freelance industries”, she adds. “That problem and the continuing issue of the gender pay gap will only be properly addressed if the government gives self-employed parents the chance to balance care-giving for their children with their careers. I hope we can use these events at the party conferences to press home the message to politicians from all parties that changing the rules to help self-employed will not only be a huge help to parents, but also a great boost to the talent pipeline of our fantastic music industry”.