An employment tribunal has decided that easyJet’s shift practices were indirectly discriminatory towards two breastfeeding employees on the grounds of sex. This arose through easyJet’s refusal to allow the employees (who were crew members) to have bespoke shift arrangements. The employees had requested not to be rostered for shifts longer than eight hours. The tribunal also decided that easyJet had suspended the employees on maternity grounds and during that suspension had failed to pay them their correct pay and had failed to offer suitable alternative work.
This case is useful in three main respects:
It gives a real-life example of the operation of some of the various rights that breastfeeding mothers enjoy and the associated obligations on employers.
It demonstrates the level of case preparation that an employer needs to undertake in order to successfully argue objective justification. The picture painted by the judgment is that easyJet was not able to present hard evidence to back up its assertion that allowing bespoke shifts would cause serious operational difficulty.
It demonstrates the type of recommendations that tribunals might make in discrimination cases.
The case also makes the observation that it is not possible for a mother to state with certainty when she expects to cease breastfeeding and it was not reasonable for the employer to ask this question.