Rishi Sunak has faced mounting criticism from a number of self-employed groups and organisations who argue millions have been cut off from support. This is due to stringent eligibility rules and those who recently became self-employed, receive income from other sources or have family commitments may be ineligible for the grants.
Newly pregnant mothers are particularly affected by this and on January 21 the charity Pregnant Then Screwed, with support from Doughty Street Chambers and law firm Leigh Day, took the Chancellor to high court over discriminatory practices.
They argued 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 this affects is calculated to be around 69,200 and Pregnant Then Screwed asked Rishi to take immediate steps to change the SEISS so that time taken for maternity leave is discounted when average earnings are calculated.
Pregnant Then Screwed started legal proceedings after the Chancellor was asked why he had not exempted periods of maternity leave from the Self employed grant calculations.
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“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.
“Thank you to everyone who offered their support with this case.
“We hope that people will continue to support us if we go to appeal.”
A HM Treasury spokesperson issued the following comment on the verdict: “Our package of support for the self-employed is one of the most generous in the world, and part of a £280bn investment to protect jobs and businesses during the pandemic.
“We’ve always tried to support as many people as possible through our schemes and will continue to do so. We welcome the court’s ruling.”
Claimants must also declare that they intend to continue to trade and they have a reasonable belief that there will be a significant reduction in trading profits going forward.
Claims for the third set of grants can no longer be made but the Government have confirmed fourth grants will become available “in due course.”
HMRC themselves warn the following circumstances, or change in circumstances, could affect SEISS eligibility:
- Claimants returns are late, amended or under enquiry
- They’re a member of a partnership
- They had a new child
- They has loans covered by the loan charge
- They claimed averaging relief
- They’re a military reservist
- They’re non-resident or chose the remittance basis
- They receive state aid