The Government has bowed to peers over demands to change the wording of legislation allowing ministers to take paid maternity leave from “person” to “mother”.
All sides of the Lords were fiercely critical of the use of the word person, instead of woman, throughout the Ministerial and Other Maternity Allowances Bill.
After accusations that this amounted to “abandoning women”, Cabinet minister Lord True said the Government was willing to accept a cross-party amendment to the legislation.
The change will remove references to “person” in the Bill and replace them with “mother or expectant mother”.
The Bill is being rushed through Parliament to allow Attorney General Suella Braverman to take six months away from her post following the pending birth of her second child.
Under current laws Ms Braverman would have to resign if she wanted to take time off with her baby.
The amended legislation will have to return to the Commons before becoming law.
Tory Baroness Noakes, one of the main critics of the earlier wording of the legislation, hailed the change as a “great day for women”.
Lady Noakes, who had previously spoken out against the Government “abandoning women”, said peers had tapped into a “huge well of unhappiness about how women have been eliminated from public discourse and public policy”.
Tory Lord Lucas, who proposed the change of wording, said: “Words matter, especially on the long road to equality.
“The use of the word ‘person’ in the Bill erases the reality that overwhelmingly maternity is undertaken by women and not by men.
“To leave ‘person’ in place would be a step backwards in women’s equality.”
But Liberal Democrat Baroness Barker said the wording of the Bill was already inclusive.
Lady Barker warned that amending it would be a deliberate decision to exclude trans men and others from services.
Lord True said the Government had listened to the strength of feeling in the House and accepted the amended wording would be “legally acceptable” and the meaning of the Bill would be unaffected by the change.
The Government had previously argued the language used in the Bill was in line with current drafting convention and guidance.
Lord True also confirmed the Government would now look at wider reform around parental leave.