Webb v EMO Air Cargo - Case Summary

University / Undergraduate
Modified: 22nd Feb 2024
Wordcount: 505 words


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Legal Case Summary

Summary: Legal Case Summary: Fundamental case in discrimination law when the applicant was not hired due to her pregnancy.


Webb, the claimant, applied for a role with EMO Air Cargo (UK) Ltd. During the selection process, she revealed that she was pregnant. While she was qualified for the role, she was not appointed. She contested the decision, citing discrimination on the basis of sex.

EMO Air Cargo (UK) Ltd, on the other hand, argued that her rejection was not due to her being a woman, but because of her pregnancy. They referred to a potential male candidate facing a similar situation, such as one taking paternity leave, who would have similarly been denied the role.


The primary issue was to establish whether the denial of the role to Ms. Webb due to her pregnancy amounted to direct sex discrimination as per the then-existing Sex Discrimination Act 1975.


This ruling was instrumental as it removed the necessity of comparing how men would be treated in similar circumstances in sex discrimination cases, at least in situations involving pregnancy. Thus, it is a significant milestone in the narrative of sex and pregnancy discrimination.

The case has inevitable ties to Dekker v Stichting Vormingscentrum Voor Jong Volwassenen (VJV-Centrum) Plus [1991] as it also dealt with pregnancy-based discrimination claim. However, Webb v EMO Air Cargo (UK) Ltd further fortified the standpoint against pregnancy discrimination.


The European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled in favour of Ms. Webb. It considered the hypothetical male candidate argument of EMO Air Cargo (UK) Ltd irrelevant.

The ECJ established that only women can become pregnant and any discrimination on that basis is direct discrimination on grounds of sex.


  • Webb v EMO Air Cargo (UK) Ltd [1993] AC 788.
  • Dekker v Stichting Vormingscentrum Voor Jong Volwassenen (VJV-Centrum) Plus [1991] ECR I-3941.
  • Sex Discrimination Act 1975.

Journalist Brief

This case brought to light the subtle issues of sex and pregnancy discrimination. Here, Ms. Webb, a competent applicant, was denied a role due to her pregnancy, which she contested. The company argued that not her gender, but her situation i.e., pregnancy led to the denial. The ECJ favourably ruled in Ms. Webb's favour, setting a strong precedent that pregnancy discrimination equates to sex discrimination since only women can become pregnant.


What is the Webb v EMO Air Cargo case about?

Answer: The case concerns sex discrimination where Ms. Webb, a pregnant woman, was denied employment by EMO Air Cargo due to her pregnancy.

Who won the Webb v EMO Air Cargo case?

Answer: Ms. Webb won the case. The ECJ ruled in her favour, stating that pregnancy discrimination amounts to direct sex discrimination.

Why is the Webb v EMO Air Cargo case important?

Answer: The case set a landmark precedent that pregnancy discrimination is direct sex discrimination. Hence, it played a key role in advancing anti-discrimination protections for pregnant women in the workspace.

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