Page v Freight Hire (Tank Haulage) Ltd: EAT 1981

The complainant was a female lorry driver, aged 23, employed by a firm specialising in the carriage of chemicals. One chemical was potentially embryotoxic, and the manufacturers warned that special precautions should be taken to avoid women of child-bearing age being exposed to it. The employers therefore refused to allow the complainant to drive lorries carrying the chemical in question. She complained of sex discrimination.
Held: Her appeal failed. The employers had a defence under section 51(1) of the 1975 Act, which excluded liability for an otherwise unlawfully discriminatory act ‘if it was necessary for [the respondent] to do it in order to comply with a requirement . . of an Act passed before this Act’. The employers were obliged to act in the way complained of in order to comply with their duty under section 2(1) of the 1974 Act and could rely on the defence. The Equal Opportunity Commission submitted ‘that the employers had to show ‘that there is no other way of protecting [the] woman . . other than’ by subjecting her to the detriment complained of, and that that must be demonstrated by reference to an absolute standard, irrespective of any limits on the employer’s knowledge or understanding of the safety risk. Slynn J. rejected that submission, holding that it was enough that the employers could show that the act complained of was necessary on the information available to them.


Slynn J


[1981] ICR 299


Sex Discrimination Act 1975 51(1), Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 2(1)


England and Wales

Cited by:

CitedAmnesty International v Ahmed EAT 13-Aug-2009
EAT RACE DISCRIMINATION – Direct discrimination
RACE DISCRIMINATION – Indirect discrimination
RACE DISCRIMINATION – Protected by s. 41
UNFAIR DISMISSAL – Constructive dismissal
Claimant, of . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Employment, Discrimination, Health and Safety

Updated: 07 May 2022; Ref: scu.374668