For women, the viability and attractiveness of a career as a pilot is significantly affected by the ability to balance working as a pilot with maternity and childcare commitments. This is a multi-faceted subject which raises questions about flexible working, rostering and the role of fathers. At its most fundamental level, however, lies the issue of maternity pay. The financial support available to a woman following the birth of her child has a major influence on the decisions that she will make, the consequences of which will be present for an entire career.
In late 2017, a small group of women pilots came together, with the assistance of the British Airline Pilots Association (BALPA), to campaign for an improvement to the amount of maternity pay paid to women pilots. This group now comprises of approximately one third of the women pilot community. They are all committed to encouraging more women to become pilots. However, they are united in the belief that the current level of maternity pay available is grossly inadequate, causes significant hardship to women seeking to balance their careers with their family lives, and presents a major disincentive to women considering a career as a pilot. BALPA now seeks to address this problem.
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.