A hearing began today at the High Court. on a legal challenge to the unfair treatment of Maternity Allowance in Universal Credit awards. Unlike Statutory Maternity Pay, which is largely disregarded by the DWP, Maternity Allowance is treated as ‘unearned income’ and is deducted in full from any Universal Credit award. According to Maternity Action, which has been working with the Child Poverty Action Group for over a year on this issue, this disadvantages women by up to £5,000 over nine months of maternity leave, compared to those who receive Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP).
Maternity Action says, “The outcome will be a critical one for women given the hugely increased numbers now claiming Universal Credit due to the Covid crisis. This includes pregnant women who miss out on SMP, and so end up on Maternity Allowance, for arbitrary reasons – dismissal or redundancy early in pregnancy, or being wrongly sent home on Statutory Sick Pay instead of being suspended on full pay. And self-employed women who can only claim Maternity Allowance.”