Is self employment for you?

If you want to have a satisfying career but don’t want to leave your baby to go back to the office, working from home, or flexible office hours could be the solution

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Your baby has arrived and every day is a new adventure, but the time has come to make that big decision: should you return to work and potentially miss out on important moments of your child’s life, or suffer a decrease in your income to stay at home?

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To satisfy your emotional ties to your baby and keep your bank account happy, working from home – and even setting up your own business – could be the solution. It’s certainly becoming a popular option; a survey released last year found that over a third of new and expecting mums were aiming to set up their own enterprises.

Pros and cons

This isn’t a decision to be taken lightly. Yes, running a business from home gives you flexibility and more time to spend with your little ones. You save time and money without a commute, and you could create a better working environment. However, work and money isn’t guaranteed. You could feel isolated through less human contact, or you might find it hard to ‘escape’ your work.

Working from home takes commitment, organisation and determination. Before you start on this new path, set clear, realistic goals and discuss everything with your family – you’ll need their full support. But if you can make it work, you might just find the perfect work-life balance.

Here are some tips to get you started:

  • Self-employers must register Schedule D status with their local tax office. As a self-employer, you will also be required to fill in a tax return form that has to be paid twice a year, and pay National Insurance Contributions.
  • Extra help at home is a must if you plan on getting any work done. Even just having a nanny, family member or friend watch your infant for half the day will make a world of difference, and still give you plenty of time to spend with your baby. This will also help you separate family and work life in a positive way.
  • Create a distinct office at home. This will help your mind recognise the room as a work space, and keep you focused.
  • Find a motivator that will get you up and at your desk at your appointed time.
  • Set yourself a lunch break and a tea break, and try to stick to working a reasonable length of time a day. However, be prepared to be flexible.
  • To overcome feelings of isolation, establish a network of other home-working mums and arrange weekly coffee meetings or play dates. Getting out of the house and interacting with others is important when working at home, to maintain a healthy state of mind.
  • Be patient. Starting up a business is hard, especially when you’re managing a household. You may not see a profit right away, and you need to be financially and emotionally prepared for this

What about flexible working?

What rights will you have to change your hours in the office once you’re a mum?

Parents of children under six (or under 18 if the child is disabled) have the right to ask to work flexibly. If you’ve worked for your employer for at least 26 weeks and are responsible for your child on a day-to-day basis, your employer must seriously consider any request to work flexible hours, but can still refuse if he or she can offer good business reasons for so doing.

There is a standard procedure to follow. Visit the Department For Business Enterprise & Regulatory Reform website (www.berr.gov.uk), and from there, also click on Directgov.

What if my employer refuses?

You have the right to take your case to an employment tribunal (make sure you put everything in writing and keep a record of emails and meetings). You need to make your complaint within three months of refusal. It’s always best to try to sort things out with your employer before going to a tribunal, but if this becomes your only option, contact the Equality and Human Rights Commission. Their helpline is 0845 604 6610.

Can I ask to work flexibly while I’m pregnant?

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You don’t have a legal right to request flexible hours but it’s always worth asking – especially if you can highlight the benefits. For example, you won’t be so tired at work if you don’t have to commute and you’ll be able to get more work done if you’re less tired and can concentrate without distraction.

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