BMA taking Secretary of State for Defence to court over failure to consider extending employment rights to Armed Forces doctors

by BMA media team

Press release from the BMA

Location: UK
Last reviewed: 21 March 2022

The British Medical Association has launched legal action against the Secretary of State for Defence over his failure to intervene to give employment rights to Armed Forces personnel, including doctors.

The BMA is the trade union for doctors and medical students and brings this case for its members working in the Armed Forces. However, the case potentially has wider implications for all Armed Forces service personnel.

Currently, members of the Armed Forces are denied a range of ordinary employment rights, including protection from unfair dismissal. However, the law1 explicitly gives the Secretary of State for Defence the power to extend the right not to be unfairly dismissed to employees in the Armed Forces.

The BMA, in a case being heard this week2 in the High Court, says that the Secretary of State for Defence has unlawfully failed to consider doing so.

The case is associated with an employment tribunal claim brought by BMA member Dr Glynn Evans, in which he claimed that he was mistreated for carrying out his lawful trade union activities.  The Ministry of Defence applied to quash his unfair dismissal claim relying on the fact that the relevant legislation had not been implemented by the Secretary of State for Defence.

Dr Latifa Patel, interim chair of the BMA’s representative body, said:

“Many people might be shocked to learn that members of the Armed Forces do not have the full statutory employment rights available to civilian employees. However, what is perhaps even more concerning is that Parliament intended otherwise; and specifically codified provisions in legislation, which, when commenced, would level the playing field.

“Those provisions were drafted and approved by Parliament more than 24 years ago, just subject to a final decision from the Secretary of State as to the date of their commencement. However, proper or lawful consideration has not been provided to implement them since.

“That failure not only frustrates the will of Parliament; but it also fails to give proper respect to members of the Armed Forces, including the doctors who fight to protect them, who the BMA represents.

“This is completely unjust and sits at odds with Government rhetoric around supporting members of the Armed Forces and the nation’s duty to treat those who serve the country with fairness.

“These are people who risk their lives to protect our country and liberties. That we have been forced to bring this case to court is a source of great disappointment.”


Notes to editors

The BMA is a professional association and trade union representing and negotiating on behalf of all doctors in the UK. A leading voice for outstanding health care and a healthy population. An association providing members with excellent individual services and support throughout their lives.

  1. The relevant rights were enshrined in law 24 years ago, in Section 192 of the Employment Rights Act 1996, but require the Secretary of State for Defence to implement them. However, the legislative provisions have not only never been implemented by the Secretary of State, but their implementation has never even been properly considered, the BMA argues.
  2. The case is scheduled to be heard in the High Court on Tuesday 22 and Wednesday 23 March.