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Maternity and pension rights for the self-employed

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A new European Union directive has granted self-employed people maternity and pension benefits.

Under the terms of the Directive, which came into force on 5 August, self-employed women, spouses who help with the business and partners of self-employed business people are entitled to maternity leave (of at least 14 weeks should they choose to take it) and an allowance.

Assistant spouses and partners will also have the right to social security coverage (such as pensions) on an equal basis with formally self-employed workers, if the member state offers such protection.

EU member states can decide whether the maternity allowance and social protection rights are provided on a compulsory or voluntary basis.

According to EU estimates, some 16 per cent of Europe’s working population are self-employed, many of whom depend on the help of spouses and partners who work on an informal basis in small family businesses.

Viviane Reding, EU commissioner for justice, fundamental rights and citizenship, said: “With the entry into force of this new law, Europe takes an important step forward in terms of increasing social protection and providing equal economic and social rights for self-employed men and women, and their partners.”

EU member states have two years in which to include the Directive in their national legislation.