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Permission granted for judicial review of SEISS impact on women on maternity leave

Daphne
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Leigh Day reporting that the 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).

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.

Stuart
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Campaign group Pregnant Then Screwed confirms case is to be heard this Thursday -

Pregnant Then Screwed, with support from Doughty Street Chambers and law firm Leigh Day, will be taking the Chancellor to the high court on 21st January for discriminating against women in the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS)... this isn’t just about the 69,000 vulnerable new mothers who have received a payment that is well below what they should have received. It is about the critical importance of maternity leave and ensuring that as a society we value it.

[ Edited: 19 Jan 2021 at 02:18 pm by Stuart ]
Amanda JB
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The decision can now be found on the news/caselaw page

or here https://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/Admin/2021/309.html

Paul_Treloar_AgeUK
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Thanks Amanda. You do have to wonder what purpose there is in the current approach to the PSED when you read decisions like this.

87. The Claimants argue that the Chancellor committed himself to the ATP approach at an early stage, before there had been any consideration of the equality impact. In the briefings prior to announcement, there was no reference to the impact on those who had recently been pregnant or had taken periods of maternity leave. Although those specific issues were raised in later briefings, notably the submission dated 2 April 2020 and the briefing dated 22 April 2020, the Chancellor was never asked to consider measures to protect women in this category, specifically; he was not given any sense of how much such an adjustment might cost or how it might be achieved. Thus, it is suggested that his consideration of the plight of this group of women was not “proper and conscientious”, if it occurred at all. Even in the two briefings which led to the Second Direction (dated 5 April 2020 and 12 June 2020), women who had been on maternity leave (and had lower profits in consequence) were lumped together with reservists, a totally different group.

88. In my judgment, the general equality implications as well as the particular position of mothers who had recently taken maternity leave were considered by the Defendant, prior to the First Direction. These matters were raised generally in the ministerial submission of 24 March 2020, and expressly in the submissions of 2 April 2020 and 22 April 2020. Although the Scheme had been announced before those submissions, the whole point of those submissions was to focus on the detailed implementation of the Scheme; work was underway to perfect the detail and it was not too late to adjust or carve out an exception, if that is what the Chancellor had wanted to do. I am satisfied that the Chancellor had the specific issue well in focus and that the regard he had to it was proper and conscientious.

89. Accordingly, there has been no breach of the PSED.

Para.87 appears to imply any consideration was tokenistic and late in the day and also the women affected were “lumped” in with a totally different group of people, before para.88 then going onto state however that this satisfies the necessary threshold because they did the half-hearted and late consideration.

shawn mach
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