Pilot wins sex discrimination case against BA

A pilot who was refused the right to work part-time to look after her baby has won her sex discrimination case.

Jessica Starmer, 26, said she would have had to resign from her £50,000 a year job if British Airways (BA) bosses did not cut her working hours so she could look after her daughter.

Starmer, who has spent 800 hours a year flying shorthaul Airbus A320 flights from Heathrow, took her case to an employment tribunal which has now found in her favour.

She said: “Being both a professional airline pilot and a mother should in no way be incompatibile. It would have been a personal tragedy for me and my family if I was forced to leave BA.”

BA rigorously denied sex discrimination. It said its decision to deny the request to halve her working hours was made on safety grounds as it requires pilots with less than 2,000 hours flying time to work at least 75% of a normal rota. Starmer had completed about 1,100 hours.

The airline also said it would be too expensive to have two part-time pilots covering Starmer’s duties. It told the Watford tribunal she did not have enough flying time to qualify for 50% part-time working.

Pilot’s union Balpa said the safety rule was introduced in September – five months after Starmer’s request was refused.

A union spokseman said: “It takes around five years to accrue 2,000 hours flying time – the point when BA will consider allowing you to work a 50% rota. This is effectively telling women pilots they cannot have children for five years after joining.”

BA will now launch an appeal in an effort to overturn the ruling.

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