A private member’s bill (introduced by Jo Richardson MP) to resolve the ‘grey areas’ in both the Sex Discrimination Act 1975 and the Equal Pay Act 1970 fell at the first hurdle in 1983.







The NCCL promoted new parliamentary legislation – working with the TUC, the Labour Party (then in opposition), and in consultation with the EOC, to draft a new Sex Equality Bill to resolve the ‘grey areas’ in both the Sex Discrimination Act and the Equal Pay Act of 1970. This included, amongst other wide-ranging elements, the defining of sexual harassment as discrimination.

Labour MP Jo Richardson introduced it to Parliament in December 1983 as a Private Member’s Bill. She told MPs in the House of Commons:

Sexual harassment has been practised against women at work since time immemorial, but women were so embarrassed about it and found it so difficult to talk about, that it is only recently that the matter has been debated and discussed. Harassment ranges from sexist language to explicitly sexist calendars – [Interruption.] – to page three of The Sun, to the more threatening examples of women being touched up or asked for sexual favours and of being told, which many women have over the years, that they will not be promoted unless they submit to the sexual advances of someone who works higher up in their department. I assure those Conservative Members who seemed to think that my reference to calendars was trivial, that such matters offend many women.

(PP. Hansard [HC], 9 December 1983)


The bill fell ‘at the first hurdle’ with MPs (97% of whom were men) voting 198 to 118 against a second reading, despite the women thronged above in the public gallery. With the path to statutory legislation closed off for the meantime, the route now lay through case law.