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Pilots union urges airlines to “put their money where their mouth is” to tackle the gender gap.

The British Airline Pilots’ Association is urging the aviation industry to take immediate steps to tackle gender equality by supporting its campaign for better maternity pay for pilots.

It comes as the Department for Transport has announced a major round table on the gender gap across the transport sector.

BALPA is committed to working with the Government to represent the experience and views of British pilots. We hope airlines will come to the meeting ready to make real changes that will help make the profession attractive to women.

At the same time, several airlines are promoting the profession as part of their International Women’s Day publicity. But BALPA says airlines need to put their money where their mouth is and remove one of the biggest barriers women pilots face, by ending the scandal of statutory maternity pay and offering pilots a more appropriate enhanced scheme.

BALPA’s Baby on Board highlights how the statutory maternity pay of £145 per week from weeks 7-39, can mean pilots take a 90% pay cut when they have a family.

BALPA is calling for full pay for the first 26 weeks maternity leave and half pay for the remainder of their statutory maternity leave.

BALPA General Secretary Brian Strutton said:

“We are pleased that the Department for Transport is taking this seriously and hope all airlines will come to the round table ready to take action that will tackle the gender gap in aviation.

“Today many airlines are using International Women’s Day to highlight what they are doing to encourage women to become pilots.

“We applaud many of the schemes which look to attract women, but it is not enough to simply talk about tackling the gender pay gap.

“If airlines are serious about it, they should look at removing one the biggest obstacles women pilots face… statutory maternity pay.

“Today would be a good day for airlines to pledge to support BALPA’s Baby on Board campaign. We want airlines to offer an enhanced maternity package that will stop women pilots facing a real hardship that could put them off the career.

“We are already holding conversations with airlines, regulators and politicians to tackle this issue and believe it’s time for the airline industry to make changes that will have positive impact om women in aviation.”

What BALPA wants:

The following is proposed as a model for enhanced maternity pay package for pilots (however, this may differ from airline to airline given different pilot needs):

Women on maternity leave should receive full pay for the first 26 weeks of their maternity leave and half pay for the remainder of their statutory maternity leave.

The level of full pay and half pay should be calculated by reference to the individual pilot’s average pay over the 12 months prior to that pilot being removed from flying duties having declared themselves to be pregnant.

This represents a fair proposal by reference to other large employers in the UK. It is in line with the pay offered by comparable professional employers in other industries while enabling companies to present an industry-leading maternity pay package within the UK aviation industry. This will benefit women pilots by allowing them to have children earlier in their careers and by reducing the financial hardship associated with having children.

The benefits to airlines in adopting this proposal include being seen to lead the airline industry in enhancing maternity pay, taking a decisive step to address the gender pay gap which has previously been identified as largely attributable to pilots, and ultimately encouraging more women to become pilots.

We have launched a petition calling for improvements to pilot maternity pay. You can show your support by signing here.