15th June 2022

Today’s announcements on Private Members’ Bills mark an important step towards gender equality. Many MPs drawn in the Ballot have chosen to introduce legislation which, if passed, will make our workplaces and our communities fairer and safer for women and girls – helping to ensure they can reach their full potential.  These are a mix of changes that Fawcett has led the campaign for, and allies' campaigns that we will continue to back to the hilt. 

Every year, backbencher MPs can enter a random ballot which, if their names are drawn, means they have the opportunity to introduce a bill on a topic of their own choosing to be considered by Parliament – if successfully passed by both Houses these bills can become law. While the ballot was drawn earlier in May, at the beginning of this year’s parliamentary session, the topics of MP bills were announced today.  

Jemima Olchawski, CEO, Fawcett Society said:

"We were disappointed at the lack of progress on women’s rights in the Queen’s Speech, but the wide range of private member ballot bills announced today that will advance the rights of women and girls show that our collective voices  are being heard – and MPs are listening.  

But there is still much work to be done to ensure Government prioritises these vital issues, so that women can be better protected from discrimination and harassment at work and when they walk down the street, and so that mothers and carers have better support to get on at work." 

There are systemic issues impacting women at work and their everyday lives which require structural solutions, and it shouldn’t be up to women to struggle on their own to get what they need.  

Women and girls deserve not to be sexually harassed. 

Women deserve not to be discriminated against because they are pregnant or have young children.   

Women deserve leave if their child is born ill or premature. 

Women deserve leave so they can balance work alongside caring responsibilities.  

Fawcett, alongside many other organisations in the women’s sector, has been calling for these changes for years. Changes to pregnancy and maternity discrimination and sexual harassment law were called for in our member-funded Sex Discrimination Law Review, and we have campaigned for better protection from public sexual harassment in our work on misogyny hate crime, and by supporting Plan UK and Our Streets Now. We support the following bills and will be campaigning with our members and allies to ensure they are given the space they need to become law: 

  • MP Stuart C McDonald’s bill will introduce new neonatal leave entitlements so that families with sick or premature babies don’t miss out by getting the support and protection they need.  

  • MP Dan Jarvis’ bill will extend redundancy protections for new mothers so that new mums have greater protections when they return to work.  
  • MP Greg Clarke’s bill will tackle public sexual harassment by criminalising public sexual harassment – ensuring a strong message is sent to perpetrators that this behaviour is not acceptable so that women and girls feel safe in public spaces.  
  • MP Wendy Chamberlain’s bill will introduce a new entitlement to carer’s leave so that carers have greater flexibility in balancing their work with other responsibilities.  
  • MP Wera Hobhouse’s bill will implement a preventative duty and require employers to take all reasonable steps to stop workplace sexual harassment while also protecting women from sexual harassment from third parties including clients, customers and patients.  

There is great reason to hope that many of these bills will become law – last year, 11 ballot bills completed the legislative process. Traditionally bills introduced by MPs who are higher up in the ballot, pending support, do become law. Based on this, we’re hopeful that neonatal leave and redundancy protections will be legislated by mid-2023.  

For the remaining reforms to be enacted, the Government must commit to them as a matter of priority and support their passage through Parliament. Once again, we call for the Government to match their words with action and support women by addressing the barriers which women and girls face every day, at work and on the streets.  

As part of this, we will continue to campaign alongside the many other businesses and campaigners calling for change to ensure women’s experiences and voices are heard and part of decision-making processes.