A British Airways cabin crew member who was denied the ability to work set days to assist with childcare has been awarded more than £38,000 for indirect sex discrimination.
Ms Daly, who worked as an in-flight business manager for short-haul service BA CityFlyer, put in a request for flexible working following the birth of her first child, before she returned from maternity leave.
She claimed that returning to work would be challenging because she could not find suitable childcare arrangements, owing to the fact that her rota was unpredictable and she did not know which days she would be working from one week to the next.
In a tribunal hearing at the East London Hearing Centre, Daly claimed that BA CityFlyer was “very hesitant to granting flexibility” in any case, and that the majority of cabin crew who took maternity leave either did not return to their roles or left shortly after. She also alleged that there was an “unspoken policy of not granting set flying days for part-time workers”.
The respondent said no flexible working requests had been ever been granted for in-flight business managers, who acted as line managers for all the cabin crew on a particular flight.
In June 2017 Daly made a formal request for flexible working upon her return from maternity leave. She wanted to reduce her working hours by 25% and have set days off during the week, preferably two at a time. She said that as her husband was a teacher, she would happy to work a set day each weekend and would be flexible in the summer months when he would be able to take on the childcare.
Flexible work requests
Daly also proposed a six-month trial period to see if the arrangement worked for both the company and herself.
The request went to Ms O’Neill, who led the team of in-flight business managers. Daly was invited to a meeting to discuss her request with her. Daly made it clear she was happy to trial different ways of working which may be better for the company.
Evidence presented to the tribunal suggested that O’Neill “scarcely” engaged with the proposal. She considered alternative rosters but did not give them to the claimant. Overall, there was little evidence that O’Neill had considered alternative proposals that might give Daly more stability, nor did she ask Daly’s colleagues about the impact it might have on them.
In August 2017 O’Neill sent Daly a letter confirming the decision to reject her request, stating that the company would not be able to manage work among the team of in-flight business managers effectively and that it would have a detrimental impact on the quality of the service and performance.
The tribunal found that O’Neill’s conclusions were based on “conjecture”. Daly appealed against the decision and it was rejected for similar reasons.
In February 2018, while Daly was still on maternity leave, O’Neill telephoned the claimant to explain the new maternity phased return to work policy, which would allow part-time flexible working for six months. Daly did not apply under this scheme because it was only temporary and did not allow her to work on set days, which would mean she would need a childcare arrangement in place for the whole week regardless of when she was working.
Daly resigned from the company in May 2018 because of the lack of flexibility afforded to her.
The tribunal considered whether the requirement for in-flight business managers to work full-time and on fixed days per week put women at a particular disadvantage when compared to men. Based on the fact that women tend to take on more childcare responsibilities than men, it said that these requirements discriminated against women.
Employment Judge David Massarella said: “[The claimant] would not be able to care for her daughter in the way that she considered appropriate, and would not be able to put in place affordable childcare arrangements around the full-time shift pattern required of her by the respondent, including the refusal to agree to set days off each week, which made it more difficult for her to book childcare in advance.”
The tribunal awarded Daly £38,741.55 in compensation for unlawful discrimination, including awards for injury to feelings, loss of earnings and pension, and interest.
A spokesperson for BA CityFlyer said: “We respect the tribunal’s judgment and are sorry that on this occasion we didn’t make the right decisions at every point. However, at BA CityFlyer we aim to ensure that all colleagues are treated fairly, and offer a range of flexible working arrangements.”