4 June 2010
Leigh Day’s Elizabeth George and Camilla Palmer successfully acted for a female RAF officer in an important and wide reaching pregnancy discrimination case.
The officer was posted to the Falkland Islands, where her husband, also a serving officer, was posted too. Following disclosure of her pregnancy the RAF ordered the officer’s removal from her post (a desk based job) and immediate return to the UK. This was despite the fact that the Falklands has family accommodation for service personnel and facilities such as a Mother and Tots’ group on the base.
The RAF argued that the Falkland Islands was akin to Afghanistan and that pregnant officers, regardless of their role, were therefore required to be removed from post for their own safety and to maintain the defence of the islands. Leigh Day argued that the officer enjoyed the same rights to have a pregnancy risk assessment carried out and adjustments to her role considered (before removal) as pregnant civilian employees enjoy. The Reading employment tribunal agreed.
The case is important because the tribunal, as well as ordering that the RAF pay the officer compensation for the distress it caused her, made recommendations which will benefit all pregnant service women. These recommendations included individual risk assessments for each women who is pregnant, regardless of the nature of her posting and for the MOD to monitor all removals.
Aside from the fact that it’s ridiculous to compare the Falkland Islands to Afghanistan, the case makes it very clear that the armed forces have the same obligations as other employers not to treat pregnant women unfavourably and to carry out risk assessments.
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