Pregnant women in the armed forces will be given greater protection from discrimination after a ruling by the Employment Tribunal.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission funded the case brought by a female officer against the Royal Air Force in which she claimed she was removed from her job and had her promotion prospects delayed because she was pregnant.

The Tribunal found that the officer had been discriminated against and awarded her more than £16,000.

Law firm Leigh Day & Co represented the officer who was on a posting in the Falkland Islands when she informed her superiors that she was 12 weeks pregnant. Her request to stay on in her desk-based job was denied despite her husband, who was also a RAF officer, being based on the Island and she was ordered to return to the UK immediately.

As she wanted to be with her husband during her pregnancy she was forced to take leave to return to the Falkland Islands. This meant she missed out on a performance review which delayed her promotion prospects.

The Tribunal ruled that the Air Force had discriminated against the officer because of her pregnancy and awarded her more than £16,000. They said the way she had been treated by the Air Force “had the effect of creating an intimidating, degrading, hostile or offensive environment for her”, though this was not intentional on their part.

The Tribunal also recommended that the Ministry of Defence:

•carry out an individual risk assessment for each pregnant woman and consider adjusting her role to enable her to remain in her post,
•establish a monitoring process in respect of any removal of a pregnant woman from her post; and
•undertake a performance appraisal for each pregnant woman commencing maternity leave.
John Wadham, Group Director Legal, said:

“The Commission’s research has shown that pregnant women are the most discriminated group of people in the workforce, with 30,000 losing their jobs each year as a result of their pregnancy.