Charity loses challenge against government over Covid support scheme
Charity loses High Court challenge against the government after claiming coronavirus support scheme sexually discriminated against self-employed mothers
- Pregnant Then Screwed brought legal action against Treasure over the Seiss
- It argued tens of thousands of women received lower payments than others
- Those whose income was unaffected by maternity-related leave received more
- Seiss payments assessed on average monthly profits over last three tax years
A charity has lost a High Court challenge against the government after claiming its coronavirus financial support scheme sexually discriminated against self-employed mothers.
Pregnant Then Screwed brought legal action against the Treasury over its Self-Employment Income Support Scheme, arguing the way it was calculated left tens of thousands of women who had maternity leave with less money than others.
The programme was introduced last year to help self-employed workers affected by the pandemic, but because payments are assessed based on average monthly profits over the previous three tax years, campaigners claimed it was discriminatory and breached equality laws.
The case was brought by the charity, founded by Joeli Brearley, under its official name, The Motherhood Plan, and also by Kerry Chamberlain, a self-employed energy analyst with three young children, whose income was significantly reduced in recent years as a result of maternity leave.
Pregnant Then Screwed was founded by campaigner Joeli Brearley, who said the judgement was ‘fundamentally flawed’
The case was heard at the High Court in London, pictured, on Wednesday afternoon
At a remote hearing in January, lawyers for the charity and Ms Chamberlain argued that the policy is indirectly discriminatory because the eligibility conditions and calculation method used by the Government for the scheme does not exempt periods of maternity leave.
But, in a ruling on Wednesday, Mrs Justice Whipple dismissed the case, saying there was no unlawful discrimination as a result of the scheme and that Chancellor Rishi Sunak had considered the ‘plight’ of women who had recently been on maternity leave.
The judge said: ‘The second claimant (Ms Chamberlain) and the group of women she represents have not been the subject of indirect discrimination under the (European Convention on Human Rights) in either of the ways suggested.
‘But even if I had found discrimination to exist, I am satisfied that it would be justified applying the (manifestly without reasonable foundation) test.
‘Further, the Chancellor was not in breach of the (Public Sector Equality Duty) because he did have due regard to the plight of women who had recently been on maternity leave.’
In a statement after the ruling, a spokeswoman for Pregnant Then Screwed said the charity is considering an appeal.
A judge said Chancellor Rishi Sunak, pictured, ‘did have due regard to the plight of women who had recently been on maternity leave’
The spokeswoman said: ‘We are extremely disappointed that this legal challenge was unsuccessful.
‘Reading the verdict we feel that there are serious legal errors and find the judgment to be fundamentally flawed. We are now considering our options for appeal.
‘We are, of course, deeply concerned for the vulnerable new mothers who have had a much-reduced payment compared to their male and childless counterparts, and are now really struggling over the winter period.
‘How a judge could consider this not to be discrimination has really shocked all of us.’
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