Jeremy Hunt's new junior doctor contract has been derided for treating women as "collateral damage" by actively discriminating against them.
The health secretary's imposition of new pay and working conditions on 55,000 junior doctors was revealed in a report today to have an "indirect adverse impact on women".
The Department of Health's own analysis says Hunt's contract would disadvantage lone parents - who are disproportionately women - due to the increased cost of paid childcare, although potentially benefit those with partners.
Equality analysis published by the government on the new contract's effects on workers said:
"Any indirect adverse effect on women is a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim.
Whilst this may disadvantage lone parents (who are disproportionately female) due to the increased cost of paid childcare in the evenings and weekend, in some cases this may actually benefit other women, for example where individuals have partners, it may 26 be easier to make informal, unpaid childcare arrangements in the evenings and weekends than it is during the week due to the increased availability of partners and wider family networks at weekends and in the evenings."
The new deal for doctors is now facing derision from a Labour MP and equality campaigners, who say today's analysis reveals the "archaic and unfair" conditions burdened on women.
Jess Phillips, the MP for Birmingham Yardley, said the "astonishing" admission was proof of the government's lack of commitment to advancing women's equality.
"This contract is disgusting. It sends a message to women that they will never be the priority," she told The Huffington Post UK.
"It says 'we will never recognise you as equals. You are merely collateral damage subject only to Jeremy Hunt's will'."
"This government has no commitment to tackling gender inequality," she added.
"It keeps messing around with things on the periphery; women in boardrooms, for example, is important, but it is a minute issue.
"They deal with that because it’s the only frame of reference they know. They’re not the women cleaning blood off of hospital floors."
The former sexual abuse charity manager has pledged to take legal action against Hunt's department by working with shadow minister for women and equalities Kate Green and Heidi Alexander, shadow health secretary, to back a British Medical Association judicial review lodged yesterday.
Doctors themselves took aim at the contract too, blasting its impact on women by saying the NHS should be a "beacon of gender equality".
The Times columnist Caitlin Moran also weighed in, pouring scorn on the suggestion by the Department of Health's report that the new contract would only affect a "marginal" number of people.
Women make up 77% of NHS workers and almost 60% of junior doctors. But, as one commenter points out, the contract will also place a new strain on single parent fathers in the early years of their medical training and service.
A spokesperson for the DoH said: "Our equality impact assessment shows doctors on the new contract will benefit from a fairer pay model that better rewards those who work the most intense and unsocial hours and will improve patient care across seven days.
"Part-time trainees will now benefit from the same benefits as those working full time, including the same pay protection on a pro-rata basis."
But the Equalities and Human Rights Commission, an independent statutory body established to eliminate inequality, warned ministers not to discriminate against female medics.
In a statement to HuffPost UK the group said: "It is important that Government ensures the new contract of employment for junior doctors does not unlawfully indirectly discriminate against some doctors, and that it properly considers the potential impacts of the contract on equality of opportunity.
"This should include considering the effect of changes to the rules on career progression and pay protection of doctors who take maternal, parental and other leave. We note the BMA’s application for judicial review, which may provide clarity on the legal position."