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Discrimination Against Women in SEISS to go Under Judicial Review

Campaign organisation Pregnant Then Screwed have pointed out that self-employed women who have taken maternity leave between 2016 and 2019 will miss out in the calculation of their SEISS entitlement

Published: 10 November 2020 | 12:00 AM Updated: 28 April 2021 | 4:31 PM
Photograph of a young mother, playing on a guitar whilst being distracted by a toddler who is reaching out to the instrument. They are both smiling.
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. Photo credit: Shutterstock

Pregnant Then Screwed has been granted permission for judicial review against the Chancellor of the Exchequer for discriminating against women in the implementation of the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS).

Pregnant Then Screwed are being represented by legal firm Leigh Day, in a case which argues that SEISS discriminates against self-employed women who have taken maternity between 2016 and 2019. This is not taken into account when calculating a mother's entitlement under SEISS, and these women therefore have a lower average income.

Left with no choice but to issue legal proceedings

Pregnant Then Screwed started legal proceedings after the Chancellor was asked why he had not exempted periods of maternity leave from the self-employed grant calculations. His response was that: ‘’​for all sorts of reasons people have ups and down and variations in their earnings, whether through maternity, ill health or others.’’

Pregnant Then Screwed then wrote a pre action protocol letter to the Chancellor and the response from their legal team correlated maternity leave to a sabbatical or any other type of leave.

Pregnant Then Screwed felt they had no choice but to issue legal proceedings.

MU members are being penalised for taking maternity leave

Our Deputy General Secretary stated the MU’s support for this campaign, “​Most of our members are self-employed and many are being penalised for taking time off to recover from giving birth and care for their baby.

“The current SEISS scheme discriminates against self-employed women, simply for starting a family. The MU fully supports this legal case in the hope that self-employed mothers will be treated equally and fairly.”

Maternity leave is work that has a value to the whole of society

Joeli Brearley, CEO and Founder of Pregnant Then Screwed explains, ''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.”

She continues, “The Government has a legal obligation to ensure none of their schemes have 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.’'

75,000 self-employed women are being short-changed

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.”

It is estimated that 75,000 self-employed women who had time off to have a baby between April 2016 and April 2019 are being short-changed compared to other applicants because of the way the grant is calculated. The judge has agreed that the hearing should be expedited and it will be listed for a hearing urgently.

Organisations supportive of the case include the Musicians’ Union, Community Union, The Writers Guild, National Union of Journalists, BECTU, and Equity.

No musician should be left to fall between the cracks

It’s vital that the Government takes steps to protect the musicians who fall through the gaps in their support schemes

Take action now and join our urgent call to the Government to do more – ask your MP to make your voice heard in Parliament.

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