Mother's victory on long hours

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A SINGLE mother who could not look after her baby properly because she had to work 16-hour shifts at Heathrow Airport won her claim for sex discrimination yesterday. The case is being hailed as a victory for mothers forced to work long shifts to the detriment of family life.

Annette Cowley, 40, of Iver Heath in Buckinghamshire, was a cargo officer for South African Airways but was sacked last year after complaining about her hours. In a statement to the tribunal, Ms Cowley explained the difficulties of childcare when working back-to-back shifts and raised safety concerns about the dangers of driving across runways at Heathrow when very tired.

The employment tribunal at Reading found Ms Cowley had been unfairly sacked, ordered the airline to pay Ms Cowley three years' salary and criticised its "wholly unreasonable demands".

South African Airways said in a statement that the case arose out of a "very specific" set of circumstances and that it did not believe the decision meant that its overtime arrangements were "necessarily discriminatory, unfair or unenforceable." However, it said it would be looking at its working conditions.