Self-employed? Bag the benefits of an employee

Thursday 06 April 2017, 11:30 AM

Sam Barratt
Financial Journalist , Freelance

If you don't want to give up being your own boss, here's how to replicate these benefits. 


Sick pay

Whether it's a day off with a bad cold or a longer period with something more serious, if you're a no-show when you're self-employed, you probably won't get paid. Employees' entitlement varies. As a bare minimum, once they've been off for four days, they'll get Statutory Sick Pay of £88.45 a week for 28 weeks but many employers have much more generous sick pay arrangements.

If you're self-employed, you may be able to claim Employment and Support Allowance. This pays up to £73.10 a week (£57.90 if you're under 25) initially, rising to a minimum of £109.30 a week after 13 weeks.  

As few of us would want to rely on this, you should consider taking out income protection. This pays an income if you're unable to work due to long-term illness or injury. In addition, if you make a claim, you may benefit from your insurer's rehabilitation services, which can help you get back to work. 

Policies are flexible so can be designed to suit your needs and budget. For example, if you've got some savings, you might want to take out a policy that doesn't kick in until you've been off work for a few months as this will make cover cheaper. 
  
Maternity pay

If you're self-employed you won't be eligible for Statutory Maternity Pay, which is paid to employees at the rate of 90% of average weekly earnings for six weeks, followed by 33 weeks at the lower of £139.58 or 90% of average weekly or earnings. 

Instead, you may be able to claim Maternity Allowance. This is tax-free, paid for 39 weeks and, providing you've paid sufficient National Insurance, you'll receive £139.58 a week or 90% of your average weekly earnings if lower. If you haven't paid enough National Insurance, you'll get just £27 a week. 

Although Maternity Allowance might not be so different to the amount an employee would receive, as many employers pay higher rates of maternity pay, there can be a shortfall. 

As a result it's sensible to check whether you're entitled to other benefits and tax credits and to prepare your finances for your baby's arrive. This could include ensuring you have sufficient savings in place, taking a mortgage holiday or putting any regular savings, such as a pension or Isa, on hold while you take a break. 

Holidays

While employees have a right to a minimum of 5.6 weeks' paid holiday a year (that's 28 days if you work full time), taking time off can be a financial drag for the self-employed. Not only does it mean no pay while you're away but there's also the risk that you'll be seen as unreliable and someone else will pick up your work. 

There's no simple way round this unfortunately. Some forward planning such as putting aside savings can help the finances stretch but also plan for your work commitments. Forewarning clients allows more flexibility and be prepared to check your phone and email while you're away. If work is time-sensitive, it may be a case of finding reliable cover while you're away.  

And while there's a tendency for self-employed people to work more hours than their employed mates, don't forget that holidays are important for your health and general wellbeing. 

Pension 
Pensions auto-enrolment has significantly increased the number of employees who benefit from a pension, with the taxman and their employer also paying into their pot. Currently, this is a minimum of 0.8%, 0.2% and 1% of income for the employee, taxman and employer respectively, rising to 4%, 1% and 3% from April 2019. 

Although there's nothing you can do about the employer contribution, your pension will still get a boost from tax relief. If you're a basic rate taxpayer this is set at 20%, turning a £100 contribution into £125. Higher rate taxpayers can claim back a further 20% in their tax return, meaning that a £100 contribution costs you just £60.

Setting up your own pension is simple too. Look for one with low charges and investment choices that suit your needs and consider setting up a regular payment to help you stick to it.  

•Self-employed? LifeSearch can help you arrange an income protection policy that suits your needs.
Call 0800 316 3166 to find out more.  
 



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