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Last Updated: Friday, 22 April, 2005, 13:21 GMT 14:21 UK
BA pilot wins discrimination case
Pilot Jessica Starmer at press conference
Jessica Starmer said she was "delighted with the result"
A female British Airways pilot who claimed sex discrimination in a dispute over working hours has won her case.

Jessica Starmer, 26, from Wareham in Dorset, said she was denied a request to work 50% part-time so she could look after her one-year-old daughter, Beth.

BA strongly denied the complaint, arguing it was a health and safety case because Ms Starmer had not completed the required amount of flying hours.

BA said the case was "about safety not gender" and it would appeal.

This safety threshold is applied equally, whether the pilot is male or female
British Airways

At a press conference on Friday, Ms Starmer said: "I'm delighted with this result.

"I'm delighted that I'll now be able to spend more time with my beautiful daughter Beth and will be able to combine caring for her with the responsibilities of my job.

"I believe that my request for flexible working was reasonable and justified and in accordance with the dual responsibilities I hold as a worker and as a parent.

"All that I wanted was for my daughter to be cared for properly while continuing in a career in which myself and my employer have invested lots of time and money."

Jessica Starmer and her child
Ms Starmer wants to spend more time with her daughter Beth

A spokeswoman from BA said: "Jessica Starmer currently works part time on a 75% contract.

"British Airways has consistently said that the decision not to allow her to cut her working hours in half, to an average of just eight days a month, until she completes the required amount of flying hours was based on safety not sex discrimination.

"British Airways believes that its pilots should have at least 2,000 flying hours experience - approximately three years of full time flying - before it is acceptable for them to work at 50% levels, which equates to only eight days a month.

"This safety threshold is applied equally, whether the pilot is male or female."

'Flexible working

Caroline Slowcock, chief executive of the Equal Opportunities Commission, said: "This case means that companies will have to seriously consider requests from employees who want to change their hours.

"Those organisation that want to keep the best people need to find ways to help men and women balance work and home life."

Ms Starmer, a first officer with BA, told the tribunal in January that BA's "family-unfriendly working practices" reinforced male-dominated traditions.

The pilot, who joined BA in May 2001, told the tribunal she and her husband, who is also a pilot, worked "extremely irregular" shift patterns, which made it difficult for them to care for their young daughter.

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.

Ms Starmer flies short haul across Europe in BA's A320 (Airbus) fleet.

Jim McAuslan, general secretary of The British Airline Pilots' Association (BALPA), said: "We welcome the tribunal's decision and hope that it will encourage more airlines to introduce better part time and flexible working arrangements for all flight crew."

Watch pilot Jessica Starmer give her reaction


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