Christine Clunie and Alison Hale had organised their lives around the 12-hour night shifts they had worked for the past 10 years at their local hospital. But Wiltshire NHS Trust tried to cut costs by bringing in a shift system which would have made their home lives unmanageable and they resigned.
Yesterday, the tribunal upheld the nurses' complaint that the trust had discriminated against them as married women but threw out a further claim of sex discrimination.
The trust's decision to impose the new hours for all nursing staff, without any allowance for child-care responsibilities, was not justifiable, it said.
The Royal College of Nursing said it was "delighted" and the public service union Unison added: "This is a landmark decision. It should open the floodgates for thousands of claims."
The Wiltshire Healthcare NHS Trust said yesterday that it was "very disappointed" by the tribunal's decision.