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SEISS grants deemed discriminatory against new mothers

Written by: Emma Lunn
Campaign group Pregnant Then Screwed has proved in a court of law that the government discriminated against new mothers in the way Self Employed Income Support Scheme (SEISS) grants were calculated.

SEISS was introduced by the government in April 2020 to support self-employed workers whose income had been adversely affected by Covid-19.

Money paid out under the SEISS was based on a percentage of average profits over the past three years. But the eligibility conditions and calculation method didn’t exempt periods of maternity leave. This means women who had taken time off to have a baby in the past three years received a lower grant payment than other workers. Pregnant Then Screwed said this meant the scheme indirectly discriminated against women.

The group, with support from Doughty Street Chambers and law firm Leigh Day, took chancellor Rishi Sunak to the high court in January over the way the SEISS grant was calculated.

Pregnant Then Screwed lost the case  but in May it was been granted approval to appeal the High Court ruling – and have now been backed by the Court of Appeal.

A statement from Pregnant Then Screwed said: “The Court of Appeal overturned part of the original judgement and they agreed with us that this was indirect sex discrimination. Unfortunately, they also said that because of the speed at which this new scheme had to be implemented, it was justified.

“Sadly that means that the women impacted will not receive an automatic rebate. But, now that we have this ruling, we are calling on Rishi Sunak to acknowledge the discrimination and to take decisive action to rectify the issue.

“This judgment is huge, not just because it proves what we have been saying all along – that maternity leave is not the same as taking a sabbatical or sick leave; but it will have an impact on other cases of maternity discrimination. The judgement will also put pressure on the government to do thorough equality impact assessments on all of their future schemes.”

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