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Pregnant then Screwed granted permission for judicial review of SEISS impact on women on maternity leave

Campaign group Pregnant then Screwed has been granted permission for judicial review of the way women on maternity leave have been treated under the government's self employed income support scheme (SEISS).

Posted on 06 November 2020

The group claims that SEISS discriminates against self employed women who have taken maternity between 2016 and 2019 and the negative effects on their average income has now been factored into calculations of their entitlement under SEISS.
 
They say the sums calculated in that way do not accurately represent ordinary trading profits for self-employed women who have been unable to work following the birth of their children.
 
Pregnant then Screwed is represented by Leigh Day solicitors, who argue that, having set up the SEISS scheme to “assist those self-employed persons, whose trade has been adversely affected by the economic impact of coronavirus”, the government is required to run it in a way that is not discriminatory.
 
The claimants say the government’s general policy of SEISS has a disproportionately prejudicial effect on those who have not worked during the relevant tax year because of maternity. They say women who have been on maternity leave between 2016-19 should be treated as a special category, which equality law requires to be treated differently, to avoid discrimination.
 
Joeli Brearley, CEO and Founder of Pregnant Then Screwed said:
 
''We are very pleased the judge has now stated that our claim against the Government for Indirect sex discrimination is arguable for the purposes of proceeding to a substantive hearing. Maternity leave is not the same as sick leave or taking a sabbatical, it is work that has a value to the whole of society, ensuring the next generation survive and thrive. By ignoring this unpaid labour, mainly done by women, the Government has yet again shown its contempt for those who do this critical care work, whilst simultaneously forcing many vulnerable new families into poverty.
 
“The Government has a legal obligation to ensure none of its schemes has a disproportionate impact on anyone with a protected characteristic - the fact that women on maternity leave were clearly ignored when this scheme was designed, and continue to be ignored even when this issue was repeatedly raised in Westminster, is deeply worrying. We hope the judge will rule in our favour and these vulnerable new mothers will be given the money they are entitled to.’'
 
Leigh Day solicitor Anna Dews said:

“Our clients argue that the Defendant’s application of the self-employed income support scheme is unlawful because it disproportionately affects women who have not worked for reasons relating to maternity. The purpose of the SEISS, to provide financial support to self-employed workers during the ongoing pandemic, remains of utmost importance to our clients, their families and many others like them.”