New legislation regarding pension and maternity benefit for self-employed workers has been introduced recently by the European Union (EU). A major provision includes the right to maternity benefit for the first time, and the new rules introduce national social security provisions for spouses who are employed by the business. 

The legislation received support from EU Member States in June and each country is responsible for choosing its funding method. The Irish government must integrate this Directive into national law within two years of its introduction.

It is expected that the new legislation will boost female participation in entrepreneurship, as only 30 percent of women in Europe are entrepreneurs at the present time.

Spouses who assist in businesses that are family run are often completely dependent on the self-employed partner and can be at risk of poverty should bankruptcy, divorce or death of the spouse occur. Therefore, new provisions have been included in this legislation to help those who will be affected by these experiences.

It is the first time a maternity allowance has been granted to workers who are self-employed across the EU. The proportion of the active population that are self employed in Europe stands at 16 percent.