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16 July, 2020 Open access

Legal proceedings issued against Chancellor arguing that implementation of SEISS discriminates against women

Responding to pre-action protocol letter, Rishi Sunak suggests that dip in profits due to pregnancy or maternity is no different to ill-health or holiday

Campaign group Pregnant then Screwed has issued legal proceedings against the Chancellor Rishi Sunak arguing that the implementation of the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) discriminates against women.

Represented by Leigh Day solicitors, the group highlights that self-employed women who have taken maternity leave between 2016 and 2019 - which may affect more than 85,000 women according to figures from the DWP - lose out when claiming through the SEISS because their period of leave is factored into calculations of average income.

Responding to a pre-action protocol letter, Mr Sunak suggests that the scheme does not discriminate against women on grounds of pregnancy or maternity because the resulting dip in profits is no different to any other period of reduced or no trade for other self-employed people, such as ill-health or a holiday.

However, confirming that the group has applied for urgent permission for judicial review, founder of Pregnant then Screwed Joeli Brearley said -

'The Chancellor stated that maternity leave is the same as any other leave when questioned on this in Parliament. It is now clear from our exchange with the Government’s legal team that this is their firm position. If this standpoint is not queried, and ultimately overturned, it sets a very dangerous precedent. Giving birth and raising the next generation is not an illness, it is critical work for a well functioning society. Both men and women get sick and go on holiday, only women take maternity leave.
 
Many of the women affected by this method of calculating the SEISS, will be amongst the 54,000 per year who are pushed out of their job for daring to procreate. They become self employed as many of the jobs in our labour market don’t work for people with caring responsibilities. These vulnerable new mums are therefore facing discrimination by employers and now they are facing discrimination by our Government. We are not standing for it any longer.'

For more information see Pregnant then Screwed applies for Judicial Review over effect of SEISS on pregnant women from leighday.co.uk