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Nov 30 2021


After diving into the German welfare system for self-employed interpreters (see my article brendainterpreter.com/2021/05/27/e-se-linterprete-diventa-mamma/), let’s now move to the UK to find out more about Social Security for pregnant freelancers.

Even in this case, it looks like the system works better and more efficiently than in Italy where, believe it or not, I still haven’t received the second half of my maternity leave from the Italian Social Security and I gave birth in September 2020…

I know nobody is perfect, but I am sure that as a first world country, Italy could definitely improve the way self-employed people (especially those registered in the so called Gestione Separata) are treated.

This time I have interviewed Sophie Llewellyn Smith, who was extremely kind to dedicate some of her time to answering the questions below.

Sophie is a conference interpreter (EL, D, F<>EN). She has alternated periods of being on staff at SCIC in Brussels and freelancing with her professional domicile in the UK.

She trained as an interpreter in 1993 on the SCIC in-house training scheme (the ’stage’), and then spent two years as a member of staff, interpreting at a wide variety of meetings. Since 2003, she has also been an interpreter trainer, at Leeds University, then later Manchester University. She has led Training of Trainers seminars for SCIC, run workshops and webinars, and she now has a website at theinterpretingcoach.com where she offers e-courses and programmes for English and French retourists. She also does a lot of 1-1 coaching. She is the creator of Speechpool, a site hosting video practice material for interpreters, and TerpSummit.


1 Let’s start with an easy question:

Does Social Security exist in the UK for self-employed people like interpreters and translators?

If so, how much does an interpreter pay for it on a yearly basis?

Yes, self-employed people are covered by Social Security.

Contributions are made on a weekly basis and are partly profit-dependent.

Class 2 contributions amount to £3.05 per week, i.e., £158.60 per year and on top of that, you pay Class 4 contributions at 9% of taxable profit on sums between £9,569 and £50,270, and 2% on profit earned above £50,270.

As an example, if you made £35,000 profit in a year, you would pay 9% of £35,000-£9,569 = £25,431, i.e., £2,288.79 (plus the £158.60 mentioned above).


2 How long is maternity leave?

Up to 39 weeks.


3 What do you need to do to claim your maternity leave? Is the procedure easy and user friendly?


It’s a 21-page form that can be filled in online or on paper. There are 12 sections! I would imagine some people would find it tricky to fill in, but it’s written in plain English with guidance notes. You also have to send in various forms as proof of income (e.g., payslips) and to confirm the baby’s due date (letter from the doctor or midwife).


4 What’s the amount of money (the percentage) you get based on your annual turnover?

Actually, maternity allowance for self-employed people is not necessarily a percentage of turnover. It depends how much you earn.

As long as you have paid enough National Insurance, you will receive £151.97 a week OR 90% of your average weekly earnings for 39 weeks, whichever is lower.

The maximum is therefore £5,926.83.

If you haven’t made enough Class 2 National Insurance contributions, you will receive less: from £27 to £151.97 a week for 39 weeks, depending on your past NI contributions.


5 Can you claim additional months of maternity leave once the compulsory ones are over? If so, how many? Do you get any money from the government?


In the UK, the maximum period for which you can apply for Maternity Allowance is 39 weeks, but none of it is compulsory, I don’t think. Self-employed people can certainly take more time off, but then they won’t receive any subsidy.


6 When is your maternity leave paid and how (bank transfer, cheque, etc.)?

Directly into your bank account. You can choose whether you’d like to receive it every 2 weeks, or every 4 weeks.


7 Finally, a look at after the new baby is born: is there any childcare subsidy? If so, how much is it and for how long?

Several financial benefits are available in England.

First of all, a parent of a child aged under 16 can apply for Child Benefit. This is paid every 4 weeks to parents whose income is below £50,000 per year.

The eldest child receives £21.15 per week, and subsequent children £14 per week.

Secondly, all 3-and 4-year olds are entitled to 15 hours of free childcare per week (570 hours per year) with an approved provider (e.g., a nursery or childminder).

Some 2-year-olds are also eligible for 15 hours of free childcare per week; the allowance is available to low income households, and is earnings dependent.

It is possible to combine these free childcare allowances with other schemes, for example the Tax-Free Childcare scheme. If parents are paying for extra childcare (beyond their 15-hour allowance), the Tax-Free Childcare scheme covers 20% of the cost, up to a maximum of £2000 per year.


We received an overview of both the German and British systems, as well as the Italian one and now I have a question for my colleagues and friends: which system do you think is the best one if you want to have a child as a freelancer?






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