In the case of Humphreys v Revenue and Customs Commissioners , The Supreme Court ruled that indirect sex discrimination through Child Tax Credits was justified.
The case had been bought by a father who had been refused Child Tax Credits for his children whom he looked after at least three days of the week.
Child Tax Credits can only be paid to one household (no splitting rule) and this is decided on the basis of who the main carer is. In this case the mother was in receipt of the Credits. Although the father had near equal care of his children his claim to the Revenue and Customs Commissioners had been refused. He appealed arguing that this was discrimination in favour of women. He succeeded in the appeal tribunal but failed before the Upper Tribunal and before the Court of Appeal. He then appealed to the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court dismissed the father’s appeal. A difference in treatment was discriminatory if it had no objective or justification. Under the Convention of Human Rights it was settled law that the State had a wide margin when it came to matters of economic or social strategy. The Convention gave way to ‘reasonable justification’ in the context of state benefits.
The Supreme Court ruled that the no-splitting rule was a reasonable rule for the State to have adopted and the resulting indirect sex discrimination was justified. The aim of Child Tax Credits was to lift a child from poverty and the State was entitled to deliver support for children in the most effective manner.