Being a mum and a business-owner certainly has its challenges!
Perhaps none more so than welcoming your baby into the world and needing a break away from the business – without having to worry about the business running into trouble.
Arranging maternity leave for self-employed mothers-to-be takes some planning ahead.
For business owners, the to-do list goes well beyond buying prams and decorating bedrooms.
Following are some guidelines about what you’ll need to do to arrange the quality maternity leave you need AND stay in business…
Maternity leave for self-employed: What are your options?
You essentially have three options for maternity leave as a self-employed mother-to-be:
1. Keep the business operating while you’re on maternity leave:
If you have a team in place, this is the likely direction to go in. But this decision is not one to be taken lightly.
It really depends on four key factors:
Do you have team members you can trust to take over your responsibilities – or at the very least most of your responsibilities?
While you’re on maternity leave, you don’t want to be worrying about customer servicing issues when you need all the rest you can get.
- Do you need to hire expertise?
If you don’t have existing team members to cover for you, how much would it cost to hire someone with the required level of experience?
- What’s your cash safety net?
Does the business have positive cash flow and a bank balance that covers at least three months of overheads?
If not, do you have easy access to funds for investment in the business, if needed?
A business may perform weaker when the owner steps away for an extended break, so you’ll want to be in a strong enough position to prevent stress over covering payroll and other expenses.
- How empowered is your team?
Are your staff empowered to make decisions that will meet your expectations?
You won’t want to be putting out fires every day while you’re away. Ideally, your staff will thrive on the independence you provide to them but also be aware of the core values to follow when faced with a decision.
If you’re going to keep the business operating when you take maternity leave, there are a few steps you can take to give yourself a greater chance of success:
- Plan ahead by identifying all the tasks you perform and allocating each of these to the appropriate team member at least 2-3 months before you go on maternity leave.
- Refrain from making any significant changes to your business before your break.
- Build up the business bank balance so you have a safety net (factor into this any seasonality in your business).
- Identify to staff the days/times that you’ll be available via phone or email; also explain the types of scenarios where they must get your involvement and approval.
- Aim to be effective with the time you do spend on the business. Have a comfortable home office setup and be methodical about your to-do list: identify items that are truly urgent, what can wait, and what can be delegated.
- Perhaps take a 1-2-week vacation in advance, allowing you to iron out any kinks that occur during this “trial run”.
2. Temporarily close the business while you’re on maternity leave:
If your business revolves around you and you only require virtual or casual assistant help, it might be best to temporarily close the business.
Examples of such businesses are small photography or graphic design businesses and personal trainers.
If you try to keep the business going by hiring someone in your place, you’re unlikely to have the systems in place to allow them to hit the ground running.
This means you’ll spend too much time instructing and training your replacement, often for very little financial reward. You need to pay them a wage, after all.
If you do put your business on hold, consider the long-term outcomes. It’s always good business to ensure the customer comes first and isn’t simply neglected.
If you provide them with details of an alternative supplier to help them while you’re on leave, it could encourage the client to return to your business when you’re back up and running.
3. Continue trading without extended maternity leave
Sometimes life prevents a self-employed professional from being able to take extended maternity leave.
It could be that you don’t have a team in place; but your business and household overheads need you to keep generating income.
There’s no doubt that this can be a difficult situation, especially with the sleeping and eating patterns of a newborn.
Here are a few ways to make the most of a tough situation:
- Proactively seek support from family members.
- Advise customers in advance that you’re expecting a baby, which may result in some temporary changes to the service they receive.
- Keep within your limitations – this is not usually the time to be seeking a big new contract.
- Focus on the revenue-generating parts of your business that require the least effort, if possible.
- Set firm boundaries for yourself and be willing to say “no”.
Above all, if you’re expecting a child and reading this article, congratulations!
We really hope you have a beautiful experience with your growing family.
If you’d like to pick our brains about any aspects of maternity leave for self-employed mothers-to-be, contact us here.