In Ministry of Defence v Wallis and another the EAT considered the rights of wives of service personnel who work for schools attached to overseas military bases, who were dismissed when their husbands' service came to an end.
It decided by the EAT that the women had the right to make claims of unfair dismissal, as they were special cases within the rules set out by the House of Lords in the case of Lawson v Serco. They also had the right to make claims of sex discrimination.
Three points of general relevance arose from this decision –
- It was important that the employment contracts were stated to be governed by English law.
- It was decided that the claimants had a "special connection" with the UK to qualify them to claim unfair dismissal. This was nothing to do with the work itself but arose out of their status as spouses who were members of the UK armed forces. This means that 'special connection' can be interpreted widely.
- The claimants were allowed to claim sex discrimination even though the Sex Discrimination Act is clearly limited to claims arising 'at an establishment within Great Britain'. The EAT said that the principles which it set out in the case of Bleuse (a working time case) can be applied equally to a sex discrimination claim to ensure that a potential claimant is not left without a right to claim. This only applies within the EU, however.