Self-employed workers gain maternity and pensions rights

Self-employed workers are to gain maternity and pension benefits under a new EU law.

The Directive on self-employed workers and assisting spouses aims to improve the social protection rights of millions of women in the labour market and boost female entrepreneurship across the EU.

Self-employed workers and their partners will now have the right to maternity leave, under the Directive, which came into force this week.

The EU estimates that about 16% of the working population in Europe are self-employed, with many relying on the help of spouses and partners who work on an informal basis in small family businesses. These so-called “assisting spouses” are traditionally completely dependent on their partner and therefore at a high risk of poverty in the event of divorce, their partner’s death or bankruptcy.

Member states have two years to introduce the legislation into their national laws – ie, by 5 August 2012.

Key provisions of the Directive

  • Self-employed women, assisting spouses and life partners of self-employed workers are granted a sufficient maternity allowance and a leave period of at least 14 weeks should they choose to take it. This is the first time a maternity allowance has been granted to self-employed workers at an EU level.
  • Assistant spouses and life partners of self-employed workers will have the right to social security coverage (such as pensions) on an equal basis as formal self-employed workers, if the member state offers such protection.
  • Member states may decide whether the maternity allowance and social protection rights are granted on a mandatory or voluntary basis.


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