Singapore Airlines Reverses Controversial Pregnancy Policy: About Time We Rethink Workplace Biases

Singapore Airlines Policy
Earlier this month, Singapore Airlines reversed its longstanding rule of removing stewardesses who disclosed they were pregnant. In a statement, the airline said pregnant cabin crew “may choose to work in a temporary ground attachment” and can resume flying duties after maternity leave.

Before the new rules, female employees were put on leave without pay and forced to quit. Reportedly, once the child’s birth certificate was submitted, staff would be told to quit. Critics said a global staffing shortage in the aviation sector is the likely rationale for the policy change, as companies are forced to retain existing staff to reduce the load on training new recruits.

Singapore Airlines Policy on Pregnant Cabin Crew

Reports suggest, as per the previous policy, the ladies were not even permitted to perform any preliminary work for the airline. If they wanted to resume their employment following the birth, they had to file a new application to the employer without surety on the job. Since the airline’s inception, the restriction had not changed even after coming under harsh criticism from gender equality organisations throughout the globe for upholding the ‘archaic’ rules.

After the policy change, the pregnant cabin crew members will receive unpaid leave for 16 weeks before being automatically added to the next flight roster. According to a staff memo, quoted by Straits Times the move has been made to “further support our cabin crew during and after their pregnancy”.

The pregnant staff will now be able to apply for temporary ground jobs, such as administrative work and handling customer feedback.

In 2015, Qatar Airways did away with a similar policy that said cabin crew could be dismissed if they got married or pregnant within five years of employment.

Bias against women in the workplace remains a prickly issue. Female employees continue to bear the brunt of discrimination, with pregnancy still spelling corporate doom in many cases. In most cases, an expecting woman is passed over for promotions, given lesser hikes, lower appraisal ratings, etc. There are multiple cases where a woman who had just returned from a maternity break was retrenched, citing performance or any other reason. Just like the aforementioned case, there are cases where women were let go when the company discovers their pregnancy.

Pregnancy discrimination in the workplace continues to limit women’s opportunities and economic advancement. It is absolutely unfair and, in most countries, illegal to discriminate against pregnant women. Having a child is a pivotal moment for parents, affecting many aspects of their life, and these biases can often lead to negative workplace experiences. The discrimination can be overt or subtle, and in many cases, structures and frameworks created to help women tackle it end up letting them down. It is pervasive in its overt forms—firing pregnant employees and denying accommodations and early leave time—and in its subtler forms, such as not considering pregnant women for promotions and raises. This can have resounding psychological and financial impacts, in addition to the damage inflicted on their professional lives.

Comprehensive action is necessary to defend the rights of pregnant workers. Effective policies and procedures are necessary to foster a supportive community within the workspace. Employers need to ensure that they are embedding a supportive community where people feel valued for their contributions. Empowering people to speak up about problematic behaviour by removing barriers will also help employees and businesses to thrive.

About time we stop biases against the female workforce and help build each other up!

Suggested Reading: Illuminating Mothers In Their Own Light: Empowering Women To Tell Their Own Stories

The views expressed are the author’s own.

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