Court of Appeal: Underhill VP, Baker and Davies LJJ,  EWCA Civ 1703, 24 November 2021
This was an appeal from the refusal of a challenge to the lawfulness of the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (“SEISS”) introduced by the government during the first Covid-19 lockdown. The claimants argued that the scheme breaches Article 14 ECHR read with A1P1 by discriminating against self-employed women who took a period of leave relating to maternity or pregnancy in any of the three relevant tax years on which SEISS payments were calculated, this because the level of support granted to them under the scheme was not representative of their usual profits. Whipple J had dismissed the claim having considered the extraordinary pressures under which the scheme was introduced (including the imperative to distribute funds speedily) and the fact that the scheme adopted operated on the basis of data already held by the state. She was not persuaded that the claimants had demonstrated indirect discrimination or Thlimmenos discrimination but proceeded to consider justification, upon which she found against the claimants having adopted the “manifestly without reasonable foundation” approach (the correctness of which had been common ground between the parties).
The claimants appealed on the basis that Whipple J had erred in her approach to indirect discrimination, to Thlimmenos-type discrimination, and to justification. The Court of Appeal (Underhill and Baker LJJ, with whom Davies LJ agreed) agreed that the Judge had misdirected herself as to indirect discrimination by failing properly to take into account the disparate impact of the scheme on women who had taken maternity leave. It found it unnecessary to consider the challenge to the Judge’s application of Thlimmenos and (having considered the decision of the Supreme Court in R (SC) v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions  UKSC 26,  3 WLR 428 (see previous post) dismissed the appeal on the basis that Whipple J had been entitled to find that any discrimination was justified (further, that it was in fact so justified). The case provides further illustration (see also R (Salvato) v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions  EWCA Civ 1482 and related post) that the movement away from the “manifestly without reasonable foundation” test in cases where suspect grounds are in play is by no means a panacea for claimants.
On 28 October 2020 the Resolution Foundation published a report entitled Jobs, Jobs, Jobs, which disclosed that young workers and workers of colour were disproportionately likely to have been adversely affected by the pandemic. Continue reading
On Tuesday 27 October the Guardian reported ONS figures for the year to end March 2020 which demonstrated that Black people in England and Wales show were nine times more likely to be stopped and searched than white people. Continue reading
The Home Affairs Committee is currently taking evidence on policing and race, including the policing of the covid-19 lockdown, as part of its inquiry into The Macpherson Report: twenty-one years on. Continue reading
Part 2 of the PHE’s Understanding the impact of COVID-19 on BAME groups was finally published on 16 June 2020, a fortnight after Part 1. It makes for chilling reading. Continue reading
Divisional Court: Bean LJ and Cavanagh J,  EWHC 1554 (Admin), 15 June 2020
The claimants sought unsuccessfully to challenge the approach taken by the Chancellor to the furlough scheme, arguing in particular that the exclusion of self-employed workers from entitlement to furlough payments and the restriction of payments for non-furloughed workers who could not attend work (because they were symptomatic or self-isolating) to SSP discriminated against self-employed workers contrary to Article 14 EHCR, and indirectly discriminated against women and BAME workers contrary to EU law. They also claimed that the Chancellor had failed to pay regard to the PSED in designing the scheme. Continue reading
The Sunday Times reported on 14 June 2020 that men working in financial services were the only group of workers in the UK who had not seen their pay fall. Continue reading
On 2 June 2020 Public Health England released its report COVID-19: review of disparities in risks and outcomes. The report confirmed that BAME people are dying disproportionately (people of Bangladeshi origin who contract the disease being up to twice as likely as, and people from other BAME groups being up to 50% more likely than, white Britons to die), but neglected to suggest the reasons for the disparity or to make any proposals to deal with it. It has been widely criticised for this failure. Continue reading
On 29 April 2020 the EHRC issued a warning to Ofqual that its plan to use predicted grades in place of GCSE and A level examinations in 2020 ‘could deepen the existing inequality in education and put the future of disadvantaged young people at risk if not correctly implemented’ Continue reading
The Guardian reported on 19 May 2020 that charities and social enterprise employers had been informed that Treasury plans to wind down the Covid-19 furlough scheme and to end it in October did not ‘currently include an exemption for vulnerable workers’. The plan, as it was reported at that time, was for employers to fund at least 80% of furloughed workers’ wages by August, with (at present) employers being treated equally irrespective of sector or ability of staff to return for reasons of vulnerability to Covid-19. Continue reading