28 October 2016 #Employment
An employment tribunal has concluded that some of EasyJet’s roster practices indirectly discriminated against two breastfeeding flight attendants.
In McFarlane and another v EasyJet Airline Company Ltd, the Claimants’ made requests to work shifts no longer than eight hours so that they could have time to express milk. This was supported by their GPs (to reduce the risk of mastitis). EasyJet denied the request as it was against their roster policy which stated “there is no restriction on the length of the day that a crew or staff member can complete”. Eventually, EasyJet agreed to roster the employees on ground duties for a maximum of six months as beyond this they felt breastfeeding was “a choice”.
The tribunal found that this forced the flight attendants to work longer shifts against medical advice. Therefore, the roster policy amounted to indirect sex discrimination. EasyJet were unable to prove that the policy was objectively justified. According to the tribunal, EasyJet should have either reduced the employees’ hours, found them alternative duties or suspended them on full pay.
As demonstrated in this case, sticking too rigidly to a policy which potentially disadvantages breastfeeding mothers may prove costly. Employers should ensure they provide, not just time and facilities to mothers who wish to express milk at work, but also that they remain flexible in terms of working hours.
For further information on indirect sex discrimination or flexible working hours, please contact our employment law team on firstname.lastname@example.org
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