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Dublin: 10 °C Tuesday 19 November, 2019
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Some female pilots have to 'choose between terminating pregnancy or quitting'

Ialpa today said that female pilots in bogus self-employment are not guaranteed a job when they return after having a baby.

Image: Shutterstock

AN ASSOCIATION REPRESENTING pilots has said female pilots in bogus self-employment have to choose between quitting their jobs or terminating their pregnancies because they may not have a job when they return. 

The Oireachtas Committee on Employment Affairs and Social Protection today heard from Irish Airline Pilots Association (IALPA), a branch of Fórsa trade union.

The association’s president, Captain Evan Cullen, told the committee that approximately half of pilots operating in Irish-registered airlines are not employed directly by the airline they fly for.

Instead they are working in ‘bogus self employment’- as contractors – and usually have to become the director and shareholder of a pre-existing limited company in order to get a job. 

Cullen said Ireland’s rate of ‘contractor’ pilots is far higher than the European average, telling the committee that across Europe, 18% of pilots have non-permanent indirect employment status.

Committee members heard that the contracting arrangements in place for these pilots mean the airline does not have to pay employer PRSI contribution and the pilot does not have access to paid maternity or paternity leave or sick leave benefits. They also are not covered by the protections of unfair dismissal legislation.

cullen Evan Cullen speaking to the Oireachtas committee earlier today. Source: Oireachtas

“It is a matter of fact that female pilots have terminated their pregnancies when they were in this arrangement, that is an absolute fact,” he said. “They have a choice – you terminate your employment, under this type of employment, or you terminate your pregnancy. You can’t have both.”

“That is an utter disgrace,” Labour Senator Ged Nash replied.

Solidarity TD Paul Murphy said the situation described by Cullen was “horrifying”.

“The idea that any woman would have been effectively forced to choose between her employment and her pregnancy, and would have been faced with a situation of being forced to have a termination in order to maintain her employment is obviously horrifying.”

He asked if Cullen personally knew of cases where this happened, where the women involved otherwise would not have terminated their pregnancies.

“Female pilots have told me that they’ve terminated pregnancies because they’d no entitlement to maternity leave and therefore no guarantee of a job after they come back,” Cullen replied.

He told the committee that legislative change is needed to ensure that the practice of bogus self-employment cannot continue. He said the changes should ensure that arrangements are not imposed on any worker through duress or threat of contract refusal.

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