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Qatar Airways eases work laws for women

August 27, 2015

Women working with Qatar Airways will not be sacked anymore if they get pregnant or marry within the first five years of employment. The airline company relaxed its rules after pressure from international labor groups.

Qatar Airways Stewardessen weibliches Flugpersonal Kabinenpersonal
Image: Getty Images/AFP/K. Jaafar

A spokeswoman for the Doha-based airline said the company had phased out the restrictions "over the past six months."

The policies included air hostesses losing their jobs if they became pregnant or married within the first five years of employment.

"Our policies have evolved with the airline's growth," a Qatar Airways spokeswoman told news agency AFP. Under the new rules, female employees who were going to have babies would be offered temporary jobs. Staff could also get married after notifying the company.

More than 9,000 cabin crew operate Qatar Airways' planes around the world. Nearly 80 percent of these are women, who have to organize their lives around their company's strict laws.

One of these includes a rule according to which female employees can be picked up from work only by their father, brothers or husband. Qatar Airways is not easing this restriction for now.

Qatar Airways Airbus A340-600
Qatar Airways has a fleet of more than 150 jets, servicing almost 150 destinationsImage: Karim Jaafar/AFP/Getty Images

The airlines' discriminatory policies

The airline's discriminatory policies have met with severe criticism from employees and labor unions around the world. The International Labor Organization (ILO) looked into the organization's rules after a complaint by the International Transport Workers' Federation and the International Trade Union Confederation.

The ILO said Qatar was a signatory of the 57-year-old convention against discrimination at work, ratified by 170 countries and that its rules dismissing pregnant women breached the international agreement.

"Protective measures should include action taken to ensure that a woman worker does not lose her job during pregnancy and that maternity is not a source of discrimination," the ILO said in its statement in June this year.

However, the airways snubbed international pressure and its chief, Akbar Al Baker said at the time, "I don't give a damn about the ILO - I am there to run a successful airline." Al Baker also said the UN agency's attitude was "evidence of a vendetta they have against Qatar Airways and my country."

The Gulf kingdom has been repeatedly criticized for its treatment of workers, especially those working to build football stadiums and infrastructure ahead of the World Cup in 2022.

mg/kms (AFP, Reuters)