Women in the forces

The Armed Forces

Only just over 9.5% of Armed Forces personnel are women (less than: 10% Royal Navy, 8% Army and 14% Royal Air Force).  As a significant minority, some women still find they suffer from harassment, sex discrimination and unfavourable treatment on grounds of their pregnancy/maternity leave.

Armed Forces personnel are different:

  • They do not have the status of employees, so are not protected under the general employment law (Employment Rights Act); but
  • Armed Forces personnel are protected from discrimination on grounds of sex, pregnancy, maternity, sexual orientation, gender identity and race.  (The Armed Forces currently have formal exemptions from Disability and Age legislation.)
  • However, individuals must first submit an internal Service Complaint to their Commanding Officer setting out any allegations of discrimination.  
  • Having first submitted a Service Complaint, the time limit to lodge a claim in the Tribunal is extended from 3 months to 6 months less one day from the date of the incident(s) complained of.
  • They are not protected by any form of Trades Union or Federation.  However, oversight of the Service Complaints system is conducted by the Service Complaints Commissioner: http://armedforcescomplaints.independent.gov.uk/

Some examples of possible discrimination:

  • Sexual harassment when there is sexual banter either aimed at a woman, or about women generally in her presence;
  • Failing to promote a woman because of her gender or pregnancy  or a gender/pregnancy related reason;
  • Not giving a woman an appraisal (OJAR/SJAR) because she is pregnant or on maternity leave;
  • Making homophobic jokes either aimed at a gay individual, or about gay people generally in the presence of a person who would be offended;
  • Making jokes about gender identity either aimed at a gender-dysphoric person, or about transsexual people generally in the presence of a person who would be offended;
  • Performance management/dismissal/redundancy decisions influenced by discriminatory factors such as:

     -    a poor OJAR/SJAR because of pregnancy-related sickness or maternity leave;
     -    the fact that the woman is working under Flexible Working Arrangements;
     -    the individual’s sexual orientation;
     -    the individual’s gender identity;
     -    the woman may have parental, or other caring, responsibilities;
     -    the woman having submitted a discrimination Service Complaint

           (which constitutes victimisation).