Mum sues Chancellor after losing thousands of pounds in benefits for taking maternity leave

A freelance music producer and mum is suing the Chancellor of the Exchequer for discrimination after he suggested pregnancy should be classified with illness when it comes to lockdown income support.

Olga Fitzroy, from Streatham, is taking on Rishi Sunak because his decision on the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) means she and more than 80,000 women will lose thousands of pounds in support.

The freelance rights campaigner, 38, who has worked with Coldplay, Dua Lipa and Dr Who composer Segun Akinola, created campaign group Pregnant Then Screwed to fight the government’s rules on Covid-19 payments.

Her money from SEISS has been vastly reduced because she took maternity leave during the financial years 2015-16 and 2016-17 – so her earnings are half what they would have been if she had worked throughout.

According to the charity, the government says that it is acting within the law to treat maternity leave just like any other income reduction, like illness or a holiday.

Pregnant Then Screwed said that was unlawful because it discriminates against women who choose to have children – and 86,640 women are affected.

They had taken maternity leave in the past three years, so their SEISS plummets.

Olga, head of policy at Pregnant Then Screwed and a resident of Downton Avenue, said: “It was a relief when the government announced there would be relief payments for employees.

Olga Fitzroy with husband Simon Knee and Lucas

“But then we were gutted because we knew so many self-employed people who would not get any.

“Then that was sorted – but this gap has not been filled.

“We knew about the gender pay gap – but now with SEISS we are getting penalised again.

“I am just lucky my husband is an employee because if he had been in the same boat, we would have been in serious trouble.”

Olga, who has a four-year-old son, Lucas, added: “It was great to have so much support – more than 8,000 people signed our petition and MPs have raised it in Parliament.”

Joeli Brearley, the founder of Pregnant Then Screwed, said: “When questioned in Parliament, the Chancellor stated maternity leave is the same as any other leave.

“If this is not ultimately overturned, it sets a very dangerous precedent. Giving birth and raising the next generation is not an illness, it is critical work for a well-functioning society.

“Both men and women get sick and go on holiday. Only women take maternity leave.”

The legal challenge is being supported by the Federation of Entertainment Unions and Community Union who all have a high proportion of self-employed members.

To petition the government to change the rules, click here.

Pictured top: Olga Fitzroy with Lucas as a baby (Picture: Jennie Muskett)

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