Dear Flt Lt Jo Salter

On the day you took to the air as the RAF's first female combat pilot, your employer was ordered to pay £15,000 to a woman it sacked during pregnancy. So much for sex equality. Watch out, Flt Lt...

It would be churlish not to congratulate you - the first woman to sit at the controls of an RAF combat aircraft.

You are not, press handouts say, a standard-bearer for equality and that is perhaps fortunate, given the RAF's record in this field. For on the day you flew your Tornado across Yorkshire, an ex-colleague of yours, medical assistant Victoria Edwards, won damages against the RAF for sex discrimination. She had done exactly what you, in your interviews, say you want to do some day - she got pregnant.

Ms Edwards opted, as you say you would, to take maternity leave, but the RAF dismissed her during her pregnancy because she could no longer wear her regulation stockings. Stockings, she was told, are part of the uniform and she had to wear the uniform. If she couldn't wear her uniform, she must leave.

It is the stockings that are the news. Once, the RAF would have dismissed her for being pregnant, without finding an excuse. Apparently, it wasn't until 1990, when several ex-servicewomen took the Ministry of Defence to court for damages after being sacked during pregnancy, that the Government discovered that it had to abide by European Community equality law.

We are asked to believe that the MoD had breached EC law for 12 years by mistake because it thought it would be all right to exempt all women employed by the armed services from equality legislation, including the right to maternity leave. Some lawyers think the MoD has been a little disingenuous. Is it likely it didn't know it was avoiding EC law?

You may never find out because, while you were preparing for yesterday's big event, the MoD was in court arguing for its right to keep secret all papers relating to the treatment of pregnant women in the armed services. So determined is it to keep this paperwork secret that it has threatened to seek a public interest immunity certificate if the court finds against it.

One cannot help wondering what the MoD has to hide. I think perhaps you should be worrying too, but don't breathe a word of your worry to your colleagues. The MoD doesn't like its employees to complain. Some women serving in the Navy were told (unofficially, of course) that a single complainant might be tolerated, but if two women were to complain together, it might be construed as mutiny - which is a criminal offence.

So as you fly over us, consider whether you are there as the latest recruit of an equal opportunities employer or as a smokescreen for embarrassing court decisions. Today, you are on top of the world. The day you decide to have a child, you may find the RAF has something a lot more sophisticated than stockings to bring you down to earth.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

    £28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

    Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

    £16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

    Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

    £16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

    Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

    £17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

    Day In a Page

    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

    Everyone is talking about The Trews

    Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living
    Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

    Homeless people keep mobile phones

    A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
    'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

    'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

    British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
    Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

    Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

    Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
    14 best kids' hoodies

    14 best kids' hoodies

    Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

    The acceptable face of the Emirates

    Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk