Singapore Airlines amends rule that mandated firing pregnant flight attendants

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Singapore Airlines Ltd. said pregnant cabin crew can remain employees, reversing a longstanding and much-criticized rule that they leave the airline.

Responding to a Straits Times article on Monday, Singapore Air said pregnant cabin crew “may choose to work in a temporary ground attachment and can resume flying duties after maternity leave.”


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Before the new rules, which took effect on July 15, stewardesses who disclosed they were pregnant were put on leave without pay and forced to quit the airline the day after submitting their child’s birth certificate, the newspaper said.

There was no ground work for pregnant crew, and in order to fly again, they had to reapply for a fresh job under a program that didn’t guarantee re-employment, according to the report.

Singapore Air maintained the policy in the face of more than a decade of criticism. As long ago as 2010, gender equality groups were blasting the rules as discriminatory and unfair.

With the aviation industry facing a post-pandemic labor shortage, the carrier is finally softening its approach.

‘Left Service’

In a statement, Singapore Air said that under its previous policy, “cabin crew left the service when they were pregnant. Now, ground placements for pregnant cabin crew last at least three months and as long as nine months,” the airline said.

“We continue to work hard to retain our talented people,” it added.

Still, the conditions attached to the placements aren’t clear.

The Straits Times -- citing a circular from Singapore Air -- reported that pregnant cabin crew will still be placed on leave without pay. They will be allowed to apply for a position on the ground and the airline will offer as many of these jobs as possible to maintain their salaries, the newspaper reported.

With the changes in place, Singapore Air looks closer aligned with regional competitors.

Japan Airlines Co, for example, said pregnant crew are offered jobs on the ground until maternity leave, after which they can return to normal duties. Korean Air and Asiana Airlines Inc. both offer as much as two years leave for pregnant flight attendants, representatives said. Qantas Airways Ltd. in Australia offers work on the ground followed by maternity leave, and those returning to the air can also negotiate part-time roles.

Association of Women for Action and Research Executive Director Corinna Lim was quoted in the Straits Times article as saying there are still gray areas that Singapore Air hasn’t addressed. “Are there other rules, explicit or implicit, that will bar post-partum mothers from flying for SIA, such as requirement on physique? Losing baby weight takes time, usually six to 12 months,” Lim said.

Singapore Air, when asked, said it maintained “the same grooming standards for all cabin crew,” according to the Straits Times.

The airline didn’t respond to Bloomberg when asked if pregnant cabin crew were guaranteed a ground role under the revised policy.

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