The 2010 Equality Act made it unlawful to discriminate against pregnant customers or those on maternity leave, yet recent research indicates that mortgage lenders regularly reject applications from women in these circumstances aiming to get onto the housing ladder.
Although especially vulnerable, mothers account for a staggering 594,000 self-employed earners in the UK, according to the Association of Independent Professionals and Self-Employed, and Kingston University.
It is, rightly, common practice for lenders to require a minimum two years of accounts to accompany applications from all freelancers, but mothers claim to be penalised because some lenders assume that incomes will drop when a new child arrives, with reduced working hours. However, in practice, being self-employed offers more flexibility, with many parents working from home and taking minimum days off to sustain their income levels!
Whilst the self-employed don’t have access to statutory maternity pay, they can only work 10 days in a nine-month period to claim the maternity allowance, which is not a viable option for the majority. There also appear to be issues for women on maternity leave from full-time employment, with lenders querying future childcare costs and, thereby, the potential impact on mortgage repayment capability. In the majority of these cases, mortgage rejections adversely affect their futures, when women and their partners jointly seek funding to purchase a lifetime home and could enjoy free childcare from friends and family members. Alternatively, they and their partners may agree joint childcare responsibilities by working different hours.
All borrowers must disclose any relevant financial information, but campaigners are demanding that ‘the paternalistic mortgage model changes to ensure female freelancers and small business owners have equal access.’
Single women, including widows and female divorcees can also find that they are discriminated against, whether freelance, in full-time employment, or perhaps retired, with sufficient deposit and income to meet repayments on an existing or new home; lenders may not offer the most favourable terms, but without any explanation.
Increasingly, people – both male and female – are either choosing to live alone, or events dictate that they do; mortgage providers should drop their prejudices and adapt policies to meet today’s customers’ needs.
The solution to these dilemmas is to seek specialist guidance, face to face discussions with our trained advisors in your local Mortgage Centre, who will identify and recommend the best deals to meet each customer’s specific needs.