This has been the policy of the UK Government with respect to legislation drafting for over a decade. On March 8th 2007, then Leader of the House of Commons Jack Straw issued a written ministerial statement on gender neutral drafting:
For many years the drafting of primary legislation has relied on
section 6 of the Interpretation Act 1978, under which words referring
to the masculine gender include the feminine. In practice this means
that male pronouns are used on their own in contexts where a reference
to women and men is intended, and also that words such as chairman are
used for offices capable of being held by either gender. Many believe
that this practice tends to reinforce historic gender stereotypes and
presents an obstacle to clearer understanding for those unfamiliar
with the convention.
I have worked with colleagues in Government to
secure agreement, that it would be right, where practicable, to avoid
this practice in future and, accordingly, Parliamentary Counsel has
been asked to adopt gender-neutral drafting.
From the beginning of
next Session, Government Bills will take a form which achieves
gender-neutral drafting so far as it is practicable, at no more than a
reasonable cost to brevity or intelligibility. This policy already
applies to tax law rewrite Bills and is consistent with the practice
in many other jurisdictions in the English-speaking world.
Interestingly, according to the Civil Service, this was also common up until midway through the 19th Century:
That changed in 1850, when Parliament passed an Act “for shortening
the Language used in Acts of Parliament”. The Act said that masculine
words in legislation are “deemed and taken to include females”. It
enabled those writing legislation to use masculine pronouns (he/him)
to refer to people whatever their gender.
By 1851 an attempt was made to repeal the 1850 Act, partly because of
fears that it might be applied to legislation relating to the
franchise and give women the right to vote. The then Attorney General
rejected that suggestion as “really a most unaccountable supposition”
(a view confirmed by the courts in 1868).
Although the requirement that legislation be gender neutral has not been codified in law, and despite the Interpretation Act 1978 including the following provision:
In any Act, unless the contrary intention appears,—
- (a) words importing the masculine gender include the feminine;
- (b) words importing the feminine gender include the masculine;
This hasn't stopped laws being drafted to be gender neutral as a matter of course - in 2020, the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel published a Guide to Gender-Neutral Drafting, apparently based off their own, internal guidance from 2010.