Government Face Legal Action over Self-Employed Sex Discrimination

The Government’s Self-Employed Income Support Scheme has been fraught with problems and now legal action is being taken due to its discrimination against women.

With many self-employed workers’ incomes falling through the floor as a result of the pandemic they have had no other option than look to the government for financial support. With there being over 5 million people in the UK self-employed they make up a significant portion of our national workforce. Despite the certain tax benefits that being self-employed may offer, there are few to no protections when it comes to sick leave, maternity pay and holiday pay. This is why Government support has been so vital.

Despite this, the Government has tried its best to make it increasingly difficult for self-employed people to access adequate support. Excluded UK, a not-for-profit organisation campaigning to widen Government support, estimates that 3 million taxpayers are excluded from Government support, with a large percentage of those being people in self-employment. The group have produced a comprehensive report of those that are unable to access Government support and are calling for those in support of their campaign to sign a petition to the Government.

The Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) has now also been criticised by Pregnant Then Screwed, a group who campaign to tackle the root causes of maternity discrimination, for indirect sex discrimination. The issue with the scheme is that it does not take into consideration periods that workers take for maternity leave in its support calculations. This omission has affected approximately 75,000 women according to the group. As a result, Pregnant Then Screwed, with support from Doughty Street Chambers and law firm Leigh Day, will be taking the Chancellor to the high court on Thursday 21st January for discriminating against women in the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme.

Joeli Brearley, CEO and founder of Pregnant Then Screwed, explains why they have decided to take action:

“The government has had 9 months to amend this scheme so that it doesn’t discriminate against women; but they have chosen not to. We’ve had heartbreaking messages from so many women. For some this drop in income has left them and their young family in desperate poverty; while their male colleagues are in receipt of the full benefit.

But this isn’t just about the 75,000 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. Giving birth and caring for the next generation, particularly in a baby’s first year of life, is work; it is mentally and physically exhausting work. Not only that, but ensuring the next generation survives and thrives is surely the most important job there is.

For maternity leave to be dismissed as the same as being sick or taking a sabbatical is not only insulting, but it sends out a very dangerous message about how this government views mothers and the integral role we play in a well-functioning society. This court case is about defending women’s rights and showing the government that they cannot ride roughshod over the Equality Act.”

Source: https://pregnantthenscrewed.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/SEISS_Thursday-.pdf

The case is being supported by: Community Union, The Writers Guild, National Union of Journalists, BECTU, Sweet Cecily’s natural skincare, Musicians Union and Equity.

If you are a mother looking for advice regarding issues surrounding accessing government support and maternity leave you can contact Pregnant Then Screwed on their free advice line at 01612229879 or by going to their website.

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