Deciding whether or not to have children is, for many of us, one of the biggest decisions we will ever make – particularly as there are so many things to take into consideration. Can you afford a baby, for example? Are you emotionally ready to welcome a child? Are you prepared to give up the life you know? Is your relationship strong enough to cope with all the stresses of a new baby?
The one thing that shouldn’t be affected by starting a family, though, is your career. Yet, despite this, an overwhelming number of women say that they have felt discriminated in the workplace over their pregnancies.
And now it has come to light that one major airline has, up until very recently, demanded that all female potential employees take pregnancy tests as part of the job application process.
According to the New York Times, Iberia Airlines requested that women take the pregnancy test before they were even hired.
And, bafflingly, the Spanish company even defended the test, saying that they it was just another “routine step used to ensure the safety of employees”.
“There are very strict protocols for the protection of pregnant women in the workplace,” they said in a statement, adding that they make a concerted effort not to assign tasks to staff that could endanger their health (and that of their unborn child).
“Cabin crew members, for example, cease their duties from the moment they learn they are pregnant.”
It is worth noting here that the NHS has specified that it’s usually safe to fly while pregnant – and, indeed, many other airlines do allow pregnant cabin crew to continue working until their third trimester.
Despite their attempts to pass off the practice as being in the best interest of applicants, government and union officials have slammed Iberia Airlines for their “sexist” approach to the job application process.
“There is no reason to justify it,” said the Unión General de Trabajadores, one of Spain’s two main labour unions. They added that, if the tests were really conducted for the safety of airline staff, that “Iberia must change the procedure on possible pregnancy information so that it is immediately after hiring, never before.”
Following the backlash, Iberia has been fined 25,000 euros by officials in the Balearic Islands – and the company has confirmed that it will drop the requirement and instead “trust” its female employees to notify their bosses of pregnancies.
“Given the controversy, arising from the current protocol in place to protect pregnant women, we will no longer include a pregnancy test in the medical examination for new hires,” said Maria Teresa Garcia Menéndez, the company’s health and safety officer.
She also insisted that Iberia have never used pregnancy as a deciding factor when it comes to hiring a new female employee: in the last 12 months, they have had six pregnant women apply for positions within the company – and they hired all but one.
And yet, despite Iberia’s protestations and excuses, there’s no denying that their treatment of pregnant applicants is unacceptable.
As Iago Negueruela, the work, trade and industry secretary for the Balearic Islands government, has pointed out, men and women should never be given different tests for access to work: that’s sexism at its absolute
And, guess what? Iberia never once asked male applicants if they were planning on becoming fathers.
It is for this reason, Negueruela said, that Iberia was guilty of a “very grave infraction”.
“Any practice of this type must be excluded from the job market,” he told Cadena Sur radio