Married Women’s Employment Bill

Extract from the Married Women’s Employment Bill 1927 (Catalogue ref: ED 31/255)





Prevent the refusal to employ women in the public service by reason only of their being married.  A.D. 1927.

Be it enacted by the King’s most excellent Majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the Lords Spiritual and Temporal, and Commons, in this present Parliament assembled, and by the authority of the same, as follows:-

1.—(1) A woman shall not be refused employment or dismissed from employment by any Government department or local authority or other public authority on the ground only that she is married or is about to be married

Women not be refused employment on grounds of marriage.

(2)  Any contract, rule, or regulation made before or after the  commencement of this Act which provides that a woman shall be disqualified from employment or refused employment or dismissed from employment by any Government or local authority or other public authority on the ground only that she is married or is about to be married shall, to the extent of such provision, be void and this Act shall apply notwithstanding any contract or term of any contract to the contrary made before or after the commencement of this Act.

2.—(2) This Act may be cited as the Married Women (Employment) Act, 1927.

Short title and interpretation

[Bill 14]


Minute paper criticising the concept of the bill (Catalogue ref: ED 31/255)


Mr. Pearson.

  • This Bill provides that a women shall not be refused employment or dismissed by any Government Department or Local Authority or other public Authority on the ground only that she is married or is about to be married and it make void any contract, rule or regulation whether made before or after the commencement of the Act, which makes marriage a disqualification for employment.
  • I presume that it is regarded as an extension of the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act, 1919, which provided that a person should not be disqualified by sex or marriage from the exercise of any public function or from being appointed to or holding any civil or judicial office or post or from carrying on any other profession or function etc. There was a proviso to Section 1 of that Act that His Majesty might by Order in Council authorise regulations to be made providing for a prescribing the mode of the admission of women to the Civil Service and the conditions on which women so admitted might be appointed to or continue to hold office therein and giving power to reserve to men any branch of or post in the Civil Service.
  • It is quite clear that it was not the effect of the Act to make it ultra vires [beyond the power] any employer to have a regulation for his own purpose that he would not employ persons of a particular sex or that he not continue to employ them after they were married. The question was faintly raised in the case of Price v. the Rhondha Urban Council, 1923 2. Ch.372. On this point Mr Eve said… “ It was argued that there is something contrary in the resolution (a resolution as to terminating the employment of married women) to the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act. I cannot accept that view. That Act as appears from the title is an Act to “remove certain disqualifications arising from sex and am not prepared to hold that an Authority commits a breach of that Act if in some of its appointments it indicates that applications from one sex only can be received. Consider the absurdity to which such a conclusion might lead. The Medical Authority might require the services of a monthly nurse. Would they be committing a breach of the Act were they intimate that no ex-service man or superannuation office need apply.
  • Although no doubt the present Bill would be presented by its promoters as the logical corollary of the Act of 1919, it seems to me to differ fundamentally and to be based on an entirely opposite principle. The idea of the 1919 Act was that all employers should be released from any statutory bar which might exist with reard to the employment of women or of married women but it left contract entirely fee between the employer and the employee. The idea of the present Act is in the case of Government Departments, Local Authorities or other public Authorities, that there shall be no freedom but that the employer shall have no right to refuse to employ a woman on the ground that she is married or to terminate her employment on that ground
  • This may or may not be desirable but quite clearly it is diametrically opposed to that of the 1919 Act and it represents a policy of coercion not of freedom.
  • It also represents a policy of putting the married woman in regard to the employment specified in an entirely different position from anyone else and gives them a privileged position.
  • There are respects in which married women are put in an exceptionally favourable position under the existing law but the modern tendency is, so far as I know, rather to treat them like other people and not to give them special privileges. Thus Section 47 of the Criminal Justice Act, 1925, deprives a wife who does an offence in the presence of her husband of her long-standing privilege to escape punishment on the ground that she may have been presumed to have committed the offence under his coercion.
  • I belief that even among women themselves there would be a good deal of doubt as to the desirability of the policy embodied in the Bill.
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