Ex-Army major wins record pounds 300,000 for sex discrimination: MoD likely to contest award to woman forced to leave over pregnancy

A FORMER Army major who was forced to quit her job after she became pregnant won pounds 300,000 compensation yesterday. It was the highest in a series of awards to ex- servicewomen who have been compelled to leave the forces after starting a family.

Helen Homewood, 44, from Edinburgh, is one of thousands of former forces personnel who have won sexual discrimination claims against the Ministry of Defence after the High Court ruled in 1990 that its policy of dismissing pregnant women was unlawful.

The awards, totalling some pounds 10.3m so far, have been challenged by servicemen and MoD civilians maimed in action. They argue that it is wrong to make huge payments to women who knew that their conditions of service precluded pregnancy, while soldiers who have suffered terrible injuries in the line of duty have received much smaller sums after long court battles.

An industrial tribunal in Glasgow heard that Mrs Homewood had been an 'exceptional and devoted' officer, who could have been promoted to the rank of colonel if she had not been forced to resign her commission in 1981 after she became pregnant. The tribunal ruled that she had been discriminated against and awarded her pounds 299,851 damages.

As a major, Mrs Homewood was responsible for enforcing army rules effective from 1978 which, until the ministry was found to be in breach of a European directive outlawing sexual discrimination at work in 1990, compelled pregnant women to leave the service.

'On one occasion she had been faced with the unpleasant task of securing that a fellow officer resign, though the latter was reluctant to do so,' the tribunal chairman said.

Mrs Homewood had 'a life-long ambition' to be a soldier, the tribunal heard. She joined the officer training corps when she was a student at Edinburgh University and became a first lieutenant after graduating in 1972. She married a fellow officer in 1980 and she and her husband discussed what she would do if she became pregnant.

At the time, the tribunal was told, it was widely but wrongly believed that married women with children could not re-enlist.

She turned down a place on an army staff college programme as 'the only honourable course', because she knew that another soldier could not take her place if she became pregnant.

When she resigned she told officers: 'Old-fashioned as it may be, I believe that my family must come first and I do not feel I could do justice to either family or work by attempting to do both.'

Five years after leaving the Army, Mrs Homewood joined the Territorials and was promoted to the rank of lieutenant-colonel in 1992. Her decision, the tribunal found, 'demonstrated her continuing drive, ambition and love of the forces.'

Mrs Homewood said yesterday that her relief at winning her case was 'tempered by the fact that the Ministry of Defence has every right to appeal and probably will. Until I know the case is finally resolved, I am trying to put my feelings on hold.'

An MoD spokesman said yesterday that officials were 'taking legal advice' about an appeal.

The MoD has already paid compensation to 1,929 of the 4,000 women who have lodged claims for sexual discrimination. The ministry is likely to lose about pounds 50m in all.

Earlier this month the size of the awards was criticised by Adrian Hicks, a Grenadier Guard who, after a long court battle, received pounds 105,000 compensation for the loss of his legs in an exercise in Canada in 1988.

He said that he could see the women's point of view, 'but they were aware of the rules at the time'. He added: 'If the system can fork out for them without a fight, it should fork out for people who are far worse off.'

(Photograph omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Kim Wilde began gardening in the 1990s when she moved to the countryside
peopleThe singer is leading an appeal for the charity Thrive, which uses the therapy of horticulture
Alexis Sanchez celebrates scoring a second for Arsenal against Reading
Life and Style
An easy-peel potato; Dave Hax has come up with an ingenious method in food preparation
voicesDave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Japan's population is projected to fall dramatically in the next 50 years (Wikimedia)
  • 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.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own