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  • TUC and women’s organisations call on government to announce the employment bill at the Queen’s Speech 

  • At risk are promised protections against pregnancy discrimination, and new rights when babies need neonatal care  

  • Organisations say employment bill is the best way to fast-track protections against sexual harassment 

The TUC, Fawcett Society, Maternity Action, and the Women’s Budget Group have today joined forces to warn the government that failing to deliver the employment bill risks "turning the clock back” for women at work – and hampers efforts to advance women’s equality in the labour market. 

The warning comes after reports that ministers have quietly shelved the employment bill, despite first promising the legislation well over two years ago in December 2019 – and reaffirming that commitment on numerous occasions since. 

The TUC and leading women’s organisations are urging the government to rethink the decision and deliver an employment bill at the Queen’s Speech in May.  

Women’s equality at risk 

The groups argue that without the legislation we are at risk of “turning the clock back” on the progress women have made in the jobs market. 

The organisations point to the new protections which ministers have promised in the employment bill - all of which they say would advance women’s equality in the labour market: 

  • Extending redundancy protections to prevent pregnancy and maternity discrimination. 

  • Allowing parents to take extended paid leave when newborns need neonatal care. 

  • Introducing a new legal entitlement to one week’s leave for unpaid carers. 

  • Making flexible working the default unless employers have good reason not to. 

The groups say helping women better manage caring responsibilities alongside their jobs and protecting women from unfair dismissal and discrimination by employers are critical to advance women’s equality at work. 

Sexual harassment protections 

The government has also promised to make employers responsible for preventing sexual harassment and to strengthen protections against third-party harassment, which will need primary legislation, such as the employment bill.  

The groups warn that without an employment bill, ministers will in effect be “abandoning” women and the ”vital and long overdue” promise to cut sexual harassment at work could also “fall by the wayside.” 

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said:  

"Everyone deserves to be treated fairly at work 

“But too many women are discriminated against by their employer because they are pregnant. Too many are pushed out of work because they have caring responsibilities for children or elderly parents. And too many still experience sexual harassment at work.  

“Ministers promised to bring forward the employment bill to stop discrimination and support women to balance work and care. They promised to make Britain the best place to work in the world.  

“If ministers don’t announce the employment bill in the Queen’s Speech, they are abandoning working women.”   

Jemima Olchawski, CEO, Fawcett Society said: 

“The Employment Bill offers an opportunity to rebuild our workplaces so that they are fit for the twenty-first century.  

“All women should be safe and respected at work. No woman should face discrimination because she is pregnant. No one should be held back because of a lack of flexible working. 

“ The Government has made important commitments on all of these - now women need and expect them to make good on that promise.” 

Chair of Maternity Action, Heather Wakefield, said: 

"The July 2019 commitment to reform redundancy protections and develop an Action Plan to help keep pregnant women and new mothers in work represents the entirety of the Government's response to the 2016 research finding of the Equality & Human Rights Commission, that pregnancy and maternity discrimination is rife in Britain's workplaces.  

“Abandoning that commitment now, by shelving the Employment Bill, would mean the Government has wasted six years talking about - but not actually doing anything to tackle such discrimination." 

Dr Mary-Ann Stephenson, director of the Women’s Budget Group, said: 

“Failing to deliver this bill is failing to deliver for women. Care is the root of much of the discrimination women face, whether that’s through becoming a mother, caring for relatives or simply trying to balance childcare around inflexible work.  

“This bill would have provided vital protections for women at a time when many are faced with growing economic uncertainty.  

“The Government cannot simply talk about a Plan for Jobs, it must protect those jobs too, and that starts with strengthening employment rights for everyone, especially workers who are particularly vulnerable, such as women.” 

Editors note

- About the TUC: The Trades Union Congress (TUC) exists to make the working world a better place for everyone. We bring together the 5.5 million working people who make up our 48 member unions. We support unions to grow and thrive, and we stand up for everyone who works for a living. 


TUC press office   
020 7467 1248  

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