Self-employed 'need more support'
Self-employed workers should get more support in running their businesses, says a review commissioned by the government from a leading entrepreneur.
The report said that self-employed people now stood at 4.6 million or 15% of the UK workforce, an all-time high.
It said self-employment "should not mean that people are disadvantaged".
"It is important that with the increased growth in self-employment, and the subsequent benefits that this group brings to the economy, that there are systems in place to support the self-employed in the same way as the employed," the report added.
In particular, the report called on the government to consider increasing the maternity allowance paid to self-employed people for the first six weeks, bringing it into line with the statutory maternity pay that employees receive.
"As is the case with Statutory Maternity Pay, the remaining 33 weeks would be paid at the lower of the statutory flat rate or 90% of earnings," it said.
It also called for a new Adoption Allowance for self-employed people who adopt children, on the same basis as the existing statutory adoption pay for employees.
"The support provided by government to those starting or extending a family should be consistent whether the beneficiary is employed or self-employed," the report said.
Some analysts have suggested that many of the newly self-employed are people who have lost their jobs as a result of the recent financial crisis and would prefer to work for an employer.
However, Ms Deane's report said the majority of self-employed people had made "a positive choice to be so" and had "no plans to return to employment".
"They have found a good balance with work/life commitments and are often happier," it added.
James Gribben, of the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self Employed, agreed with the report's findings.
He told the BBC: "What we would like to see ideally is paternal leave. So maternity pay and paternity pay, though another call that's made on this report is also for adoption pay, which is another area where the playing field is not level.
"We don't want to see this kind of barrier in place and the way that you work shouldn't determine the ability of somebody to adopt or not adopt."