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EU legislation to help female entrepreneurship

New EU legislation that enters into force today is expected to promote entrepreneurship, particularly amongst women.

According to the EU, the new Directive on self-employed workers and assisting spouses will strengthen female entrepreneurship by improving the social-protection rights of millions of women in the labour market. At the moment, just one out of every three entrepreneurs is a woman.

Under the Directive, which repeals an earlier law, self-employed workers are now granted a maternity allowance and a leave of at least 14 weeks if they wish to take it. At EU level, this is the first time a maternity allowance has been granted to self-employed workers.

Rights to social security coverage

The EU said the Directive’s new provision on social protection for assisting spouses and life partners means that such people will now have the right to social security coverage (such as pensions) on an equal basis as formal self-employed workers, where this is offered by the member state.

It said the new rules would encourage entrepreneurship in general and among women in particular.

“The new European law ensures full equality in practice between men and women in working life, promoting female entrepreneurship and allowing self-employed women to enjoy better social security protection,” said Viviane Reding, EU Commissioner for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship and Vice-President of the European Commission.

High risk of poverty

Approximately 16pc of the active population in the EU are self-employed, making it a significant form of employment. According to the EU, around 11pc of self-employed workers in Europe rely on the help of spouses and partners who work on an informal basis in small family businesses, such as a farm or a local doctor’s practice. These assisting spouses are traditionally completely dependent on their self-employed partner. As such, they are at a high risk of poverty in the event of divorce, their partner’s death or bankruptcy.