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Ministers criticised for dropping employment bill from Queen’s speech

There is anger in the women’s sector at the apparent dropping of the employment bill from the Queen’s speech.

The bill has been widely viewed as a vital legislative vehicle for protecting the rights of pregnant workers and improving gender equality in the UK, with campaigners hoping it would provide greater protections for pregnant women against being made redundant, address the low take-up of shared parental leave, provide neonatal leave for parents and make flexible working the default option for employees.

Caroline Nokes, Conservative chair of the Commons women and equalities committee told the Guardian an employment bill was necessary to have a proper focus on female employment. She said:

We know that women have been particularly impacted by the pandemic and the sectors that have traditionally had a huge proportion of female jobs have been very much impacted. So we need to have a focus on how we can make sure that women – as well as young people, men, older workers – find roots back into work.

She had been optimistic because of comments made by Liz Truss, the minister for women and equalities, that there would be “a real commitment and drive” from the government to introduce new legislation around flexible working. Nokes added:

We’ve had some comments in the Queen’s speech about employment, and I would like to see them fleshed out further so that we can get an idea whether we will actually see legislation coming forward because it’s imperative that that happens as soon as possible.

But Ros Bragg, director of Maternity Action, said the apparent dropping of the bill was “deeply disappointing” and would leave pregnant women facing a wave of redundancies when furlough ended. She said:

Ministers have repeatedly promised women stronger legal protection – in their December 2019 manifesto – and they now need to urgently deliver on that promise.


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