Two female cabin crew members have successfully brought indirect
sex discrimination claims against Easyjet. When the women returned
from maternity leave they made flexible working requests to Easyjet
as they were breastfeeding, and unable to express milk while on
shift. The women requested not to be rostered for longer than eight
hours at a time, which would have allowed them to express milk
between shifts, or carry out ground duties. Easyjet refused their
requests as breastfeeding was “a choice” and refused to
offered them eight hour shifts, despite receiving advice from four
different GP’s that this could cause mastitis (painful
inflammation of the breast tissue). The Employment Tribunal held
that Easyjet should have offered them shorter shifts, found the
employees alternative duties or suspended them (whilst still
receiving full pay).
This decision is a reminder to employers to ensure that they
have adequate arrangements in place to accommodate female employees
who are breastfeeding. It should not be an expectation that women
will give up breastfeeding upon returning to work after maternity
Some practical suggestions for employers include:
Implementing a written policy for women who need to breastfeed
whilst at work.
Ensuring that existing policies do not discriminate (whether
directly or indirectly) against women who breastfeed at work.
Being aware that women who are breastfeeding need adequate
breaks, and that not allowing such breaks may be detrimental to
their health. Ensure that letters from a GP are not ignored.
Ensuring that women who are breastfeeding have somewhere to
rest whilst at work (this is a legal requirement).
Providing women who are breastfeeding with suitable facilities;
for example, a private and hygienic place to express milk and a
fridge or storage place for milk.
Being accommodating to reasonable requests for flexible working
or additional breaks on a temporary basis. This is unlikely to
trigger the need for a new employment contract as breastfeeding is
temporary. If you do not grant a request, ensure that your response
is reasonable and that you give reasons for why the request is not
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