High court case begins about SEISS and maternity leave

Pregnant Then Screwed’s legal action against the Government over the decision not to exempt periods of maternity leave from SEISS calculations goes to court today.

Image of a baby's hand holding an adult hand


A high court case begins today about whether the Government’s Self-Employment Income Support Scheme [SEISS] discriminates against women because it does not exempt periods of maternity leave in calculating average earnings.

Pregnant Then Screwed, with support from Doughty Street Chambers and law firm Leigh Day, started legal proceedings after the Chancellor responded to questions about why maternity leave was not exempted from the calculations which are based on averaged earnings over three years. Rishi Sunak said: ‘’For all sorts of reasons people have ups and down and variations in their earnings, whether through maternity, ill health or others.’’

Pregnant Then Screwed then wrote a pre-action protocol letter to the Chancellor and the response from their legal team compared maternity leave to a sabbatical.

Pregnant Then Screwed says the number of women affected is currently calculated at approximately 75,000. It is 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.

Joeli Brearley, CEO and Founder, Pregnant Then Screwed said: “The Government has had nine 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.”

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

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