Singapore Airlines drops pregnancy policy

Until June the company forced attendants that had children to quit

Singapore Airlines drops pregnancy policy

After 10 years of campaigning, Singapore’s women’s rights groups achieved a win this week when Singapore Airlines announced it’s softening its approach to flight attendants who fall pregnant. Amid an aviation-industry labour shortage, the company has announced that it will no longer fire cabin crew who become pregnant.

Before the policy change, flight attendants who fell pregnant were put on leave without pay. Once the child’s birth certificate was submitted, they were asked to quit their jobs. Attendants who wanted to return to their position after giving birth would have to reapply with no guarantee of a job.

Singapore airlines is one of the last airlines in the region to make the move despite women’s rights groups campaigning against the ‘unfair and discriminatory’ rules. In 2015, Qatar Airways let go of a policy that allowed for cabin crew to be dismissed if they fell pregnant within five years of employment.

Read more: Fired for being pregnant. Worker wins unfair dismissal case

After the announcement, the Association of Women for Action and Research (AWARE) tweeted that they welcomed the long overdue policy change.

“This is a major step forward,” said AWARE leader Corinna Lim. However, she added that “the company does not yet go far enough, and the hostesses-to-be mothers should automatically have a position on the ground, without having to ask for it.”

The new policy change means pregnant cabin crew members will receive unpaid leave for 16 weeks before being automatically added to the next flight roster. In addition, pregnant staff members will now be able to apply for temporary ground jobs covering administration and handling customer feedback.

Read more: Fast food chain ordered to pay US$550k for discriminating against pregnant employee

"Singapore Airlines supports our cabin crew during and after their pregnancy,” the airline said in a statement. “Expecting cabin crew may choose to work in a temporary ground attachment from the time they declare the pregnancy till before the delivery. This may range between a minimum of three months to nine months. These cabin crew will resume their flying duties at the end of their maternity leave. We continue to work hard to retain our talented people, and invest in them, so that they can deliver the world-class service that SIA is renowned for.

 “The ability to work temporarily on the ground will depend on availability and whether the person has the required skills,” the statement said.

The company enacted the policy in June but has kept it quiet until now. A spokesperson told media that the company has managed to find a paid job for every flight attendant who has fallen pregnant since the policy was changed.

However, the airline is so staunch on its ‘Singapore girl’ image – made famous by the body-hugging sarongs flight attendants wear – that it has some of the strictest grooming standards in the industry. Standards it intends to keep, prompting fears that new mothers will now be reprimanded for being overweight.

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