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Last Updated: Monday, 10 January, 2005, 19:44 GMT
BA 'excludes mothers as pilots'
Jessica Starmer and her child
Ms Starmer wants more time to look after her child
A woman pilot will have to leave the job she loves if British Airways does not allow her to work part-time to look after her daughter, a tribunal heard.

Jessica Starmer, 26, from Wareham in Dorset, is claiming indirect sex discrimination against the airline.

Ms Starmer told the tribunal BA's "family-unfriendly working practices" reinforced male-dominated traditions.

BA refused her request to work 50% part-time but offered her 75% instead, which she said was unacceptable.

Ms Starmer, who is also claiming loss of earnings, wants to work part-time to look after her one-year-old daughter Beth with husband Simon, who is also a BA pilot.

The Oxford graduate told the hearing "I could not look after Beth on any other basis than 50% part-time work".

Love of flying

Ms Starmer, a first officer with BA, told the hearing in Watford: "I have spent many years flying at every opportunity and have invested a great deal of time and effort working towards being able to earn my living through the activity I love."

She added: "I do not want to have to give up the job I have always wanted to do and worked so hard for."

The co-pilot, who joined BA in May 2001, told the tribunal she and her husband worked "extremely irregular" shift patterns, which made it difficult for them to care for their young daughter.
BA's lack of accommodation for working mothers works to exclude females from its pilots
BA pilot Jessica Starmer

She said the work rota was allocated by a computerised "bidding" system based on seniority, meaning it was difficult for the couple to arrange their shifts so someone was always free to care for their child.

Ms Starmer told the hearing: "It was clear to me that following my daughter's birth, I would not be able to return to work full-time."

She said this was due to a combination of factors, but mainly because of the nature of the shift patterns.

She added that the times she started and finished work made it difficult to find a child minder and that there was no room at home for a live-in nanny.

She told the hearing: "BA's lack of accommodation for working mothers works to exclude females from its pilots and to reinforce, rather than reform, the traditional male dominance in its workforce."

Ms Starmer flies short haul across Europe in BA's A320 (Airbus) fleet; before joining the airline, she flew gliders for 10 years.

'Health risk'

The tribunal heard two other women pilots had applied to work 50% part-time but were only offered 75%.

After making a formal request in February last year to work part-time, Ms Starmer said she was refused due to "possible impacts on you, your colleagues and BA".

In April last year she was given a more detailed response which cited a range of reasons, including the impact on reserve pilots covering for colleagues unable to do their shifts.

The first officer also told the tribunal that BA said her request represented a health and safety risk because she was a junior pilot.

But she told the hearing she found it incredible no one had asked about her experience at any time during her application.

The hearing was adjourned until Tuesday.

Pilot Jessica Starmer explains her case against BA

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