Navy Victory Could Turn the Tide for Women in the Forces; Mother of Two Refused Part-Time Working Wins Sex Discrimination Case

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Byline: MATTHEW HICKLEY

THOUSANDS of mothers working in the Armed Forces could win the right to go part-time following a landmark ruling yesterday.

For years, the Army, Navy and RAF have enforced a blanket ban on flexible working, and many women felt they had no choice but to quit when they had a family.

But an employment tribunal has ruled that Adele MacMillan, 39, suffered sex discrimination when her bosses refused to let her work three days a week after the birth of her second child.

Mrs MacMillan has served in the Navy for 21 years and is a landbased operations manager.

The Ministry of Defence was last night assessing the full impact of the ruling.

The Equal Opportunities Commission, which backed the case, hailed the result as 'strategically important' and claimed the Forces would have to relax the blanket ban or face a flurry of similar legal challenges.

The ruling is unlikely to lead to mothers serving part-time aboard warships or in fighting units.

But mothers serving in combatrelated roles may now be tempted to switch jobs to take advantage of any change in policy and keep their Forces careers.

While servicewomen with desk jobs or other behind-the-scenes roles may benefit from the ruling, the MoD is still expected to argue successfully that those in combat units cannot work part-time without undermining fighting effectiveness.

Of the 18,000 women now serving in the military, a large proportion have administrative roles.

In theory, the MoD may have to extend any new rules on part-time working to men to avoid fresh charges of sex discrimination. Yesterday's ruling is bound to fuel fears that military effectiveness is being undermined by political correctness and human rights laws. …