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Community supports legal action against Chancellor for sex discrimination

Community
Community
11th June 2020

“That the government’s own scheme would reinforce this inequality is scandalous…”

 

The self-employed and freelance workers union, Community, is supporting legal proceedings undertaken by Pregnant Then Screwed against the Chancellor Rishi Sunak for indirect sex discrimination against women in the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS).

 

SEISS was introduced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in April 2020, to support self-employed workers whose trade has been adversely affected by Covid19. The scheme provides a payment of 80% of average earnings over 3 years, capped at £7,500. On 29 May the Chancellor accounted that the scheme would be extended until the end of August offering 70% of average earnings, capped at £6,570.

 

The eligibility conditions and calculation method chosen by the Chancellor have a discriminatory effect on women as they do not exempt periods of maternity leave. The number of women affected is significant: currently calculated at 69,200. Pregnant Then Screwed are asking the Chancellor to take immediate steps to change the SEISS so that time taken for maternity leave is discounted when average earnings are calculated.

 

Roy Rickhuss CBE, General Secretary of Community trade union said, “Once again we are seeing women in the workforce put at a disadvantage for choosing to have children. It is a disgrace that in 2020 women are being penalised for pregnancy, and that the government’s own scheme would reinforce this inequality is scandalous.

 

We have provided numerous alternatives to the government but there has been a lack of willingness to resolve this issue in the interests of working women. That is why we took the decision to support this case which aims to secure fair treatment for self-employed women.

 

Rishi Sunak sex discrimination

The SEISS put forward by the chancellor as it stands does not exempt periods of maternity leave

 

Joeli Brearley, founder of Pregnant Then Screwed said: “The Chancellor has failed to consider the disproportionately negative impact on vulnerable new mothers when setting up this scheme. Rishi Sunak has been questioned on this in Parliament, but he continues to ignore the problem.

 

We have spoken to so many women about this topic, they are angry, they are in financial hardship and they are struggling to understand why they aren’t being listened to. The Government is not fulfilling their public sector equality duty. It is important that they are held to account for this. It is imperative these new mothers are given a voice.’’

 

The three key grounds of challenge are: (1) the SEISS calculation clause violates Article 14 (the right to protection from discrimination) read in conjunction with Article 1 of Protocol No.1 (the right to property) of the European Convention on Human Rights. In particular, SEISS indirectly discriminates against women who have taken maternity leave and, alternatively, discriminates against women who have taken maternity leave by failing to treat their situation differently to people who have not; (2) the SEISS calculation clause breaches section 19 of the Equality Act 2010 by indirectly discriminating against women who have taken maternity leave; and (3) the Chancellor has not complied with the public sector equality duty imposed by s.149 Equality Act 2010. In particular, the Chancellor has failed to give “due regard” to the impact that the SEISS eligibility conditions and calculation clause have on women.

 

Ends

 

Community is a trade union with a growing self-employed membership. Not a member? Join today.

 

For further information contact Melantha Chittenden: 07772146553

Pregnant Then Screwed is a charity (1188643) which protects, supports and promotes the rights of mothers who suffer the effects of systemic, cultural, and institutional discrimination through our various schemes and activities, including: A free legal advice service, a website where women post their stories of discrimination anonymously, campaigning for legislative change, and a mentor scheme that supports women who are considering legal action against their employer. The organisation is founded and managed by a group of women who have lived experience of pregnancy and maternity discrimination.

The organisation is being represented by Rosa Curling and Anna Dews of Leigh Day Solicitors along with Jude Bunting, Clare Duffy and Donnchadh Greene of Doughty Street Chambers.