Financial pressures of self-employment taking toll on family life

Despite self-employed workers enjoying increased flexibility and family time, a fifth of their relatives say their career choice has actually caused more stress.

The financial stresses and pressures of self-employment are taking their toll on family life, according to the latest report from Scottish Widows’ think tank, the Centre for the Modern Family.

Findings of ‘Self-employment and the Family’ show that one in five relatives of a self-employed worker (20 per cent) report increased stress levels in their household due to their career choice.

With the number of self-employed in the UK up by 133,000 in the last year (and now accounting for 15 per cent of the total UK workforce) the impact it has on family life is a worrying trend, especially as the research suggests that for many, the decision to leave traditional employment is driven by a desire for a better work-life balance.

Over half (53 per cent) of self-employed people leave traditional jobs in search of greater control and flexibility in their working life: 53 per cent wanted to be able to choose their own hours, and 17 per cent needed to fit work around childcare responsibilities.

For women especially, it appears self-employment provides an opportunity to fit working hours around childcare, with nearly half of self-employed mothers (46 per cent) choosing self-employment for this reason, compared to just 7 per cent of self-employed fathers.

Family life – but at a cost?

As a direct result of being their own boss, over a third of self-employed people (35 per cent) say they can spend more time with their family, a figure which rises to half (49 per cent) amongst mothers.

However, nearly one in five people (19 per cent) with a self-employed relative claim their family member has more financial worries since becoming their own boss, while 20 per cent say this person is generally more stressed as a result of their career choice and one in ten (11 per cent) say their whole family is under more stress as a result.

What’s more, nearly one in five of those in a self-employed household (18 per cent) say their family member is always on call for work.

Financial worries: a barrier for many

Despite the perceived benefits of self-employment, a significant proportion of the UK’s workers are hesitating to take the plunge. Two fifths (42 per cent) of the workforce claim they want to be their own boss, yet only 5 per cent have plans to do so in the future.

Instead, two fifths (40 per cent) say they prefer the financial security of being a permanent employee and 39 per cent enjoy the benefits – such as a pension, parental leave and sick pay – too much to become self-employed.

However, with more support, budding entrepreneurs say they’d have the confidence to strike out on their own; 27 per cent say that better financial support from the government would encourage them to become self-employed. For 50 per cent, more practical support, such as online forums, local entrepreneur networks and government guidance, would help overcome the barriers.

Anita Frew, chair of the Centre for the Modern Family, says, ‘To a growing number of people, self-employment offers a chance to structure a rewarding career around family life. However, our research suggests that the pressures and stresses of being their own boss may, for some, be too much for a family.

‘With more and easier access to practical and financial support, individuals may feel better equipped to make their path in self-employment less stressful for themselves and their families, and bring them more of the benefits which attracted them to self-employment in the first place.’

Scottish Widows urges the government to make self-employed pension contributions exempt from National Insurance and believes this would be a good step in the right direction.

Further reading on family self employment

Owen Gough, SmallBusiness UK

Owen Gough

Owen was a reporter for Bonhill Group plc writing across the and titles before moving on to be a Digital Technology reporter for the

Related Topics

Self Employed