A senior British Airways stewardess has won almost £40,000 after the airline refused to let her work part time after she had a baby, claiming it would hurt staff morale.
Bosses denied Chloe Daly’s application to reduce her hours by 25 per cent and to work on set days following the birth of her first child.
BA argued that agreeing to the move could mean extra work for her colleagues.
But an employment tribunal found the airline guilty of sex discrimination and awarded Mrs Daly £38,741,55 after concluding BA was ‘resistant’ to flexible working to accommodate childcare responsibilities.
British Airways refused to allow flight manager Chloe Daly, of Thundersley, Essex, to work part-time after her maternity leave
Mrs Daly told the hearing that BA ‘was overall very resistant to granting flexibility’.
She said that most cabin crew who took maternity leave either left immediately upon their return to work or soon afterwards.
The tribunal heard Mrs Daly had worked for the airline for almost 10 years and was based at London City Airport as an in-flight business manager for BA Cityflyer.
The hearing was told there were five IBMs based there including her – three women and two men – and none had children.
On average, she was required to fly as cabin crew two days a week, although she sometimes flew more if they were short of crew, or less if IBMs were needed in the office.
Mrs Daly, from Thundersley, Essex, had refused flexible work requests as a manager
Mrs Daly, from Thundersley, Essex, became pregnant in late 2016, and was due to go on maternity leave in August 2017.
After a certain point, she was grounded in accordance with the airline’s policy and later permitted to work from home part of the time.
The tribunal in east London heard no evidence that these changes to her normal duties had a negative impact on her performance. BA did not employ extra staff cover until Mrs Daly started her maternity leave.
In July 2017, Mrs Daly’s daughter was born six weeks early, and she went on maternity leave immediately. The baby had serious health problems and this was a stressful time for her and her husband.
The tribunal heard she was due to return from maternity leave in August 2018 and had tried to find childcare but ‘affordable, alternative childcare arrangements would not have been available, if Mrs Daly worked the flexible shift pattern required by BA, full-time’.
Mrs Daly told the hearing that in her managerial role, she had herself turned down flexible working requests from other staff.
However, she still applied for flexible working in June 2017 – asking for a 25 per cent reduction of hours with set days off during the week – so she could arrange childcare for days she was working in advance.
The tribunal heard she also proposed a six-month trial period ‘to see if it works for both the company and myself’.
Her bosses rejected the request in August 2017, stating ‘There may be a negative impact on morale within the team if they had to manage situations that may arise in your absence in addition to their current workload’.
In May 2018 – several months before she was due to return to work – Mrs Daly found out she was pregnant with her second child. She resigned the same month.
In her resignation letter she wrote: ‘Due to my flexible working request and appeal application being denied by the company, it would make it extremely hard for me to return to my current role full-time…
‘With no flexibility offered from the company to assist me on my return from maternity leave, it is with great sadness that after giving BACF flexibility, hard work and dedication for ten years that I feel I have been given no option but to resign from my loved role as IBM at London City.’
Finding the airline guilty of indirect sex discrimination, the tribunal said it had no evidence granting Mrs Daly’s request would affect staff morale.
BA was also unable to provide any evidence that any other staff returning from maternity leave had ever been allowed to work part time.
The judge found the refusal of flexible working amounted to indirect sex discrimination and the full time requirements ‘put Mrs Daly at a particular disadvantage’
Employment Judge David Massarella said: ‘BA was open to flexible working requests when they arose out of medical circumstances, but resistant when they arose by reason of childcare responsibilities.
‘The tribunal was not satisfied that BA has shown that Mrs Daly’s request would have a detrimental impact on morale.’
The judge found the refusal of flexible working amounted to indirect sex discrimination because ‘part-time working, and a more predictable working pattern, are often of particular benefit to women’.
They added the full time requirements ‘put Mrs Daly at a particular disadvantage’.
‘She 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 [BA], including the refusal to agree to set days off each week, which made it more difficult for her to book childcare in advance.’
The panel noted, however, that BA’s decision would not have come as a ‘great surprise’ to Ms Daly.
‘We accept that she was very upset and disappointed when her flexible request was refused, although we observe that, given that her own evidence was that she knew that the general approach of (BA) was to refuse such requests and she had herself done so (in a managerial capacity) in the past,’ it said.