House of Lords quits Stonewall work programme in row over gender-neutral terms

House of Lords quits Stonewall work programme in row over gender-neutral terms

  • LGBTQ+ charity Stonewall’s ‘Diversity Champions’ programme loses HoL support
  • The House of Lords follows the BBC and the Cabinet Office in ditching scheme
  • Stonewall scheme gives organisations advice on creating ‘inclusive’ workplaces
  • Members of the scheme are encouraged to say ‘pregnant people’, not mothers

The House of Lords has become the latest institution to quit a controversial workplace scheme run by charity Stonewall following a row about gender-neutral language in legislation.

A Bill to enable ministers to take maternity leave without stepping down initially referred to ‘pregnant people’ rather than mothers, but the wording was changed after peers raised concerns last year. 

Now the Upper House has abandoned the LGBTQ+ charity’s Diversity Champions programme, under which participants pay for advice on creating an ‘inclusive’ working environment.

Other high-profile organisations to have done the same include the BBC, while government departments such as the Cabinet Office have also rejected it.

A Lords spokesman said the decision followed an assessment of the ‘costs and benefits of the programme’, adding that it was taken in consultation with equality networks in Parliament and that the Lords ‘remains passionately committed to delivering a more inclusive workplace for our LGBT+ colleagues’.

The House of Lords has ditched LGBTQ+ charity Stonewall’s ‘Diversity Champions’ programme, which gives advice on how to create ‘inclusive’ work environments – recommending that employers say ‘pregnant people’, not mothers

But The Sunday Times reported that peers had lobbied Lord McFall, Speaker of the Upper House, and chief clerk Simon Burton to leave the scheme.

Among controversial advice from Stonewall is for organisations to replace the word ‘mother’ with ‘parent who has given birth’, to account for women who have transitioned and are now men.

The Ministerial and other Maternity Allowances Bill was fast-tracked through Parliament to enable Attorney General Suella Braverman, who was expecting her second child, to retain her role while on maternity leave. 

During its second reading last February, the Tory peer Baroness Noakes said the use of ‘pregnant people’ contributed to ‘the erasure of women in society’.

Stonewall said: ‘Our Diversity Champions programme provides guidance and support on making HR policies inclusive for LGBTQ+ employees. It has no bearing on the drafting of legislation, which is the responsibility of the relevant government department.

‘To suggest otherwise is to fundamentally misunderstand the legislative process.’

Stonewall says more than 900 UK organisations have signed up to the scheme, which it claims is ‘the leading employers’ programme for ensuring all LGBTQ+ staff are free to be themselves in the workplace’.

In November the BBC dropped the scheme, saying its membership had raised questions about the corporation’s impartiality.

Director-general Tim Davie told staff it was ‘unquestionable’ that its participation ‘has led some organisations and individuals to consider that the BBC cannot be impartial when reporting on public policy debates where Stonewall is taking an active, campaigning, role’.

Mr Davie said it was the correct move ‘to minimise the risk of perceived bias and avoid any perception that engagement with the programme is influencing our own decision making’.