Last month two members of cabin crew at EasyJet were successful with a sex discrimination claim against their employer after the low-budget airline failed to make any suitable arrangements to allow employees time to express breast milk for their young babies.
Sara Ambacher and Cynthia McFarlane brought the claim after EasyJet refused to accept their request for shorter shifts so that the pair could express milk both before and after work. Having refused the request EasyJet instead offered the pair ground duties for six months whilst they continued to breastfeed. The employment tribunal concluded that EasyJet’s actions amounted to indirect sex discrimination under the Equality Act 2010. The tribunal held that the employer had failed to carry out its own risk assessment and failed to take in to account medical evidence provided by the claimants’ GPs. The mothers had raised a number of internal grievances regarding their situation before lodging their claim at an employment tribunal. EasyJet had agreed that the pair could do ground duties for six months but were not willing to extend this period because they concluded that their wish to continue breastfeeding was ‘a choice’.
The claimants argued that because the airline offered no solutions beyond the six month time limit, EasyJet had made their decision for them. The tribunal sided with the cabin crew and held that it was discriminatory to attempt to limit the period during which the mothers could continue to breastfeed.
This case highlights the importance of giving careful consideration to any request made by an employee to vary their working arrangements. It is also significant to remember that any business that applies a policy, procedure or practice that indirectly discriminates has to show that there was a good enough reason to objectively justify this decision or risk having a discrimination claim lodged against them.
Should you or your business require any further clarification on the above issues then please do not hesitate to contact the Slater Heelis employment team