SIA No Longer “Dismiss” Air Stewardesses Once They’re Pregnant

Did you know that there is an actual law in Singapore that makes it illegal for businesses to fire women because of pregnancy?

The fact that there needs to be a codified law to prevent such misogynistic practices does speak volumes of how bad it was in the past and how far we have come.

Alas, even if with the law present, such practices do persist in the quiet.

Expecting Crew Can Now Switch To Ground Positions

In the past, Singapore Airlines (SIA) stewardesses’ contracts were usually terminated once they were with child. They would be placed on no-pay leave once they declare they are pregnant, and they were forced to leave the company after they submitted their child’s birth certificate.

Wow, what a way to celebrate the birth of a new life by giving the mother the “gift” of unemployment.

Although ex-stewardesses could reapply to SIA under the returning crew scheme, it does not automatically guarantee their re-employment.

Thankfully, with the new SIA circular that was put in place on 15 July, that longstanding practice has finally come to an end.

Now, the crew will be placed on no-pay leave, but they can apply for temporary ground positions within the company, in areas such as administrative work, dealing with passenger feedback and requests through e-mail, content creation, and event management.

This means that the pregnant air stewardess will have a source of income from a less taxing job.

The crew will also be given 16 weeks of maternity leave after giving birth before they are immediately rostered to fly again.

According to SIA, some expecting crew have already taken up ground positions, but it did not elaborate on how many were on the scheme.

Should an air stewardess’ contract expire during her pregnancy, she will be offered a one-year contract renewal as well.

Nonetheless, SIA is determined “to further support our cabin crew during and after their pregnancy”.

Observers are much more sceptic though, analysing that the likelier rationale behind the change was driven by the global manpower shortage.

After all, retaining existing staff is much easier compared to training up new recruits.

This belated move has finally brought Singapore’s national airline in line with other carriers.

Old and Existing Issues

As far back as 2010, the Association of Women for Action and Research (AWARE) has criticised SIA’s businesses practices, even calling it “discriminatory and unfair”.

In its censure, it also pointed out that termination was not the best way of protecting the female attendants or the growing foetuses, adding that it would be better if expecting cabin crew were allowed to take up alternative employment during their pregnancy and placed on the roster again after their pregnancy.

While the new policy is a step in the right direction, there are still a few issues present within SIA’s hiring practices.

For instance, there are grooming standards for SIA cabin crew—will the post-partum mothers be allowed to fly for SIA if they don’t manage to meet the requirement on physique?

Generally, it takes around six to 12 months to shed the baby weight. It simply cannot be done within the 16 weeks of maternity leave, especially when a new mother would be more focused on recovering and taking care of their infant.

When asked, SIA only said that the grooming standards that they have for all cabin crew are consistent.

…which means that the new mothers will be pressured into fitting their expected standards as soon as possible, or stay grounded for longer, got it. 

Furthermore, another cabin crew issue that is cropping up in the SIA is the age limit.

As Singapore faces an ageing population, phasing out the older cabin crew might cause serious shortages in manpower in the future if there is not enough new blood to replace the old.

Truth to be told, these discriminatory practices are quite surprising to hear from a national carrier

This is a good type of change though, and it may even facilitate career changes for older cabin crew into other jobs in the aviation industry.

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Featured Image:  Sorbis /