Pregnancy sacking ruled to be unfair: Landmark victory in European Court

EQUALITY campaigners yesterday hailed a landmark victory after the European Court of Justice ruled that a British woman sacked because she was pregnant was unfairly dismissed.

The court said that the dismissal of Carole Webb, 25, a clerk, by EMO Air Cargo, violated EU principles on the equal treatment of men and women at work.

Its decision may now open the way for her to claim compensation against her former employer.

Mrs Webb, of West Drayton in west London, was sacked in 1987 two weeks after joining the firm having being taken on to replace another woman who was about to start maternity leave.

Kamlesh Bahl, chairwoman of the Equal Opportunities Commission, said the ruling would have far-reaching implications for companies, which would have to look again at the way they treated pregnant women. 'The EOC has a long-term aim of securing a fairer deal for pregnant women in the workplace and this case will contribute significantly to achieving that aim,' she said.

'It will have major implications for employers, who will need to change their employment culture and practices and follow the lead of those progressive employers who already recognise the valuable contribution women make in the workplace and the economy.'

Mrs Webb, who now has two children, began her seven-year legal battle by taking her case to an industrial tribunal - with the help of the Hillingdon Legal Resource Centre in west London. Although she lost, she appealed to the Employment Appeal Tribunal. When she lost there, she took her case to the Court of Appeal.

Although she lost again at the Court of Appeal, she was given leave to appeal to the House of Lords, which referred her case to the European Court of Justice.

The case will now go back to the Lords so that peers can consider it in the light of yesterday's ruling.

Mrs Webb told the BBC One O'Clock News yesterday: 'I am very pleased and very relieved. I have waited a long time - seven years - but it is going to give women the right to take companies to court.'

The ruling was also welcomed by John Monks, the TUC general secretary. 'Employers will now have to accept that pregnancy is a normal part of women's lives and that they can't use pregnancy as an excuse for treating women any differently to men when they take personnel decisions,' he said.

Michael Forsyth, the employment minister, said he did not think the ruling would have wider implications for British women as they were already protected by legislation passed last year.

He told BBC Radio: 'The 1993 legislation already makes it automatically unfair to dismiss a woman on grounds of pregnancy, or even to select a woman for

redundancy because of pregnancy. That now applies to every woman who is pregnant and whose child is expected after 16 October this year.'

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Outbound Telesales Advisor - OTE £30,000

£14000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is very proud of t...

Recruitment Genius: Head of Sales

£75000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Head of Sales position is offered on...

East15 Acting School: Finance and Contracts Officer

£20,781 to £24,057 per annum: East15 Acting School: The post involves general ...

Recruitment Genius: Credit Control / Sales Ledger Administrator

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a temporary position wo...

Day In a Page

Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks
The haunting of Shirley Jackson: Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?

The haunting of Shirley Jackson

Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?
Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes
Ashes 2015: Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

A woefully out-of-form Michael Clarke embodies his team's fragile Ashes campaign, says Michael Calvin
Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen