Breastfeeding has hit the headlines again, this time in the case of two members of easyJet cabin crew who argued at the budget airline’s failure to limit their duty days to 8 hours to allow them to express milk, or to offer them ground duties for an unlimited period of time whilst they continued to breastfeed, was discriminatory.
As the law currently stands, if an employer refuses to allow a woman flexibility at work to breastfeed (which includes both feeding the baby and expressing milk), this may be indirectly discriminatory unless the employer has an objective justification for its refusal.
On 29 September 2016, the Bristol Employment Tribunal ruled that easyJet’s failure to allow these women the flexibility they needed, amounted to indirect sex discrimination. EasyJet had turned down their request on health and safety grounds. The airline also ignored medical advice and failed to carry out health & safety risk assessments or occupational health assessments.
It was revealed that easyJet’s own training literature recognises breastfeeding as a “globally recognised right” where passengers are concerned. This is apparently not the case for their own employees.
Astonishingly, EasyJet managers admitted to Googling “breastfeeding risks” on the internet before coming up with a series of unsuitable solutions, each of which caused the women to suffer a significant detriment. One such solution was offering them ground duties limited to 6 months to reflect the mothers’ “choice” to breastfeed. EasyJet spectacularly missed the point that by doing this, they were essentially making the mothers’ choice for them and limiting the period for breastfeeding in this way was discriminatory in itself.
A terrific victory for both of these women, an encouraging decision for women generally wishing to continue to breastfeed after returning to work and hopefully a wake-up call for employers to support its breastfeeding employees.
Source : www.unitetheunion.org/news EasyJet Breast Feeding Ruling is Human Rights Victory.