Around 75,000 self-employed mothers were short-changed during the lockdown because the financial support they received through government schemes was partly based on their income during maternity leave rather than their normal earnings.
The government is now facing a judicial review over the matter brought by charity Pregnant Then Screwed on the grounds of indirect sexual discrimination.
When asked in the House of Commons about the impact on new mothers of the Self Employment Income Support Scheme, Chancellor Rishi Sunak said self-employment has its “ups and downs … for all sorts of reasons … whether through maternity, ill health or others”.
Founder of Pregnant Then Screwed, Joeli Brearley, hit back at Chancellor’s response, saying: “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,” she told the Guardian.