Singapore Airlines has changed its policy on pregnant flight attendants, who previously had their contracts effectively ended once with child.
The controversial policy saw employment contracts with pregnant crew members ended days after they gave birth; but Singapore’s Straits Times reported this week that it appears to have been scrapped on 15 July.
An airline memo seen by the newspaper informs SIA employees that pregnant cabin crew may now apply for temporary ground positions, and return to in-flight duty when they return to work after giving birth.
The memo reportedly says the move is “to further support our cabin crew during and after their pregnancy”.
Singapore Airlines has had a decades-long and controversial policy of putting pregnant crew members on unpaid leave the day their pregnancy is declared; with employees then reportedly forced to leave the company once their child’s birth certificate is registered.
In its circular, Singapore Airlines confirmed that previously, “cabin crew left the service when they were pregnant.”
Attendants could later reapply to the airline under a returning employee scheme, but were not guaranteed a job after giving birth.
Singapore crew members will still be placed on unpaid leave, reports the Straits Times, but will be able to apply for temporary ground positions within the company, such as in-airport roles, customer service or social media.
There is no indication that the pregnant crew members will be guaranteed a role of this nature, although the memo reportedly stated that the company will do its best to offer as many ground jobs as possible, with Singapore Airlines spokesperson telling the paper that those who have applied have so far been able to find jobs without issues.
It also announced that pregnant cabin crew will be placed on up to 16 weeks of maternity leave after giving birth, before they are automatically rostered to fly again.
The airline’s policy on staff pregnancy has been criticised for decades by women’s rights and employment rights groups.
“It was discriminatory and sexist,” Corinna Lim, executive director of the Singapore-based Association of Women for Action and Research (Aware), told Agence France-Presse (AFP).
“We are surprised that SIA continued the practice for as long as it did, especially since it had been publicly questioned, by Aware and others, when it first came to our attention in 2010.”
Aware posted a statement to LinkedIn saying: “We welcome SIA’s long overdue policy change, one that we had previously flagged in 2010 due to its discriminatory nature.
“SIA’s previous policy, which terminated female cabin crew post-childbirth, hampered women both in their professional and personal prospects.
“While this a positive change, we hope SIA continues to support working mothers by allowing more flexible work arrangements and revising its restrictive grooming standards.”
A Singapore Airlines spokesperson told The Independent: “Singapore Airlines supports our cabin crew during and after their pregnancy.
“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.”
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