Putting women's rights at the heart of Brexit

Putting women's rights at the heart of Brexit

Women’s Equality amendment has widest cross-party support in Article 50 debate

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This week marked a step change in support for gender equality in Parliament, as an amendment WE tabled to Theresa May’s Article 50 legislation together with the Green Party received the widest cross-party support of any amendment to the government bill. The amendment, that seeks protections for women’s employment rights and ensures  Parliament’s future sovereignty over equality legislation currently enacted through regulatory framework that falls outside its influence, received unprecedented cross-party support and was signed immediately by MPs from Labour, the SNP, Liberal Democrats, the SDLP and Plaid Cymru.

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Art50 Amendment

“In a week in which we’ve seen a Trump administration take executive action to roll back fundamental rights, it’s more important than ever to ensure we are protected against a bonfire of rights at home. Women have had to rely on the EU regulatory framework and the European Court of Justice to safeguard equal rights at work. Hard Brexit could mean the rolling back of those hard-won rights unless urgent action is taken to ensure responsibility remains in the hands of our Parliament to lead the way towards a more equal Britain” said Sophie Walker. 

Notification of withdrawal from the EU kick starts a process that results in regulations, or so-called secondary law, being demoted to executive control, including employment and equality legislation. This means that changes to women’s rights, such as protections for pregnant workers, can be achieved without parliamentary scrutiny and oversight.

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“We are talking about protecting rights for part-time workers and breastfeeding mothers. We need to safeguard the rights for parents to return to work after parental leave and to make sure pregnant women who work night shifts are not put at risk. If we are leaving the EU then it is only right that our parliament is afforded oversight of this vital legislation,” Walker said.

“The European Court of Justice has repeatedly had to challenge the decisions of our legislators, such as when UK courts ruled that pregnancy discrimination was not sex discrimination. It is essential that these decisions are transparent, and that our politicians are accountable to the people should they attempt to roll back women’s hard won rights.”

Caroline Lucas MP said:

“I’m  pleased to have worked with the Women’s Equality Party on this amendment guaranteeing Parliamentary sovereignty over equality rights that are currently protected through secondary legislation. I urge MPs to add their names to this crucial amendment to ensure that the Brexit process doesn’t mean that the clock is turned back on gender equality.”

Dr Charlotte O’Brien, Senior Lecturer at York University said:

“Vital employment and equality rights are contained in secondary provisions. That means that two years from notification the executive could have a bonfire of rights even without a Great Repeal Bill, unless we replace the oversight of the EU legislature with that of Parliament.“

Sophie Walker added that the Women’s Equality Party would continue working with other political parties to ensure Brexit does not turn back the clock on gender equality. “We will insist that new laws and new trade deals are subject to intense scrutiny so that they serve to build up a more gender equal UK, rather than increasing inequalities.” 

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