Webb v EMO Air Cargo (UK) Ltd (No 2) [1995]

Webb is a landmark decision because it emphasises the reality that employers must accept – pregnancy is a normal part of the lives of many working women

Debra Morris

In Webb v EMO Air Cargo (UK) Ltd the House of Lords held that dismissal on grounds of pregnancy was contrary to the Sex Discrimination Act 1975, even though a man in similar circumstances (i.e. unable to work for a time) would also have been dismissed. Significantly, it was finally recognised that no comparison (e.g. to a sick man) was necessary to establish discrimination against a pregnant woman.

Looking back, we can appreciate how the English courts made heavy weather of this issue. It took the dedicated Ms Webb eight years, and a trip to Luxembourg (the location of the Court of Justice of the European Union) to win her case. Her tenacity is to be admired, especially upon learning that she was only a teenager when she was told that she would be sacked for being pregnant.

As Anne Morris commented at the time: “Nowhere was the reluctance to promote equality of opportunity for pregnant workers more apparent than in the long, tortuous saga of Mrs Webb”.

The full version of this landmark is written by Debra Morris.

Learn More

Clare McGlynn, ‘Pregnancy Dismissals and the Webb Litigation’ (1996) 4 Feminist Legal Studies http://www.academia.edu/17393899/Pregnancy_dismissals_and_theWebb_litigation

The Independent, ‘Law Report: Pregnancy Dismissal Amounted to Sex Discrimination’ http://www.independent.co.uk/news/obituaries/law-report-pregnancy-dismissal-amounted-to-sex-discrimination-1579524.html