Maternity allowance: self-employed, pregnant and suddenly having money problems: carpenter fights for maternity protection reform

"As a pregnant entrepreneur, I don't fit into the system," says Johanna Röh.

Maternity allowance: self-employed, pregnant and suddenly having money problems: carpenter fights for maternity protection reform

"As a pregnant entrepreneur, I don't fit into the system," says Johanna Röh. The master carpenter and restorer from Alfhausen near Osnabrück gave birth to her daughter Mela last May. Röh is self-employed, like many male colleagues. But things are different for the 35-year-old, at least since she became a mother. With a petition to the Bundestag, she and two other entrepreneurs want to initiate a comprehensive reform of maternity leave.

Maternity leave and parental leave is not a problem for employees - the situation is more complicated for the self-employed. According to the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, the self-employed with private health insurance do not receive any maternity benefit. You have to take out private daily sickness allowance insurance, and waiting times have to be observed there. The pregnancy must therefore be well planned.

If you are self-employed and are voluntarily insured with a statutory health insurance company, you will receive maternity benefit during the maternity protection periods from the health insurance company in the amount of the daily sickness allowance. However, the entitlement to daily sickness benefits must also be secured. Those who waive this are not entitled to maternity benefit. Irrespective of whether private or statutory insurance - as an entrepreneur, she has to take out additional insurance, criticizes Röh.

She did not receive sick pay because the calculation of sick pay was still in the start-up phase of her company, when income was still low and investments high, explains Röh.

"As a self-employed person, it's a blatant competitive disadvantage if, as a woman, I also want a family," says the craftswoman. As a self-employed person, she did not receive any benefits, which cost her family a lot. "In the meantime it wasn't entirely clear whether I could keep the business going."

It is important that a pregnancy does not lead to unequal opportunities on the labor market, says Röh. "If I have to close the company because I'm pregnant, I have double the costs - my own and those of the company." If she had been given a worker, as is possible in agriculture, it would have helped her a great deal. She thinks it could be financed through the social security funds, as in the agricultural sector.

The petition is now before the Bundestag. The requirement: self-employed pregnant women must enjoy the same statutory maternity protection as employees.

Federal Family Minister Lisa Paus sees a need for regulation. "Equal treatment between the self-employed and employees is not easy. But it must also be possible for the self-employed to start a family without too many obstacles," the Greens politician had told the Funke newspapers in December. "Therefore, we should also allow freelance work for the self-employed."

In the meantime, the Petitions Committee of the Bundestag has dealt with the paper, as the SPD Bundestag member for the Osnabrück-Land constituency, Anke Hennig, says. "All democratic parties have responded positively," explains the politician. This started the parliamentary process. But the project is complex - it falls under the responsibility of several ministries. Such parliamentary procedures took a long time.

The Central Association of German Crafts (ZDH) also supports the petition, as association spokeswoman Michaela Steinhauer says. There is currently an inequality between employed and self-employed craftswomen. Political solutions are urgently needed for this. One possibility is farm helpers based on the agricultural model, as requested by Röh and Co. "Such a possibility of representation should then be financed as a service for society as a whole from taxes and not through contributions," Steinhauer demands.

Röh says: "Something has to change." Her trainees may also be faced with the same question at some point: family or self-employment. "This is a social concern, not a purely private one."