Former air hostess wins £8k after being fired after pregnancy problems

A former air hostess who lost her job after she had a baby has won a discrimination case against her airline after she was fired from her ‘dream job’.

Andrea Elcock, 35, was left in ‘agony’ after the birth of her third child and had to use crutches to get around when her joints were ‘pushed to the limit’.

Mrs Ward said that during pregnancy her hormone and body changes led her hip to pop out, her pelvis to ‘split apart’ and caused extreme soreness in her coccyx.

She was diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, EDS, and was signed off work for three months after giving birth to her son Ward. 

Andrea Elcock, 35, suffered agonising pain during her third pregnancy and had to use crutches to get around as her joints were ‘pushed to the limit’

Guernsey based airline Blue Islands ran out of patience with the mother-of-three after taking time off and she subsequently lost her job.

The airline, franchise partners with budget brand Flybe, carries passengers between Bristol, Guernsey, Jersey, London and Southampton.

Andrea has now won her discrimination case against the airline and awarded £7,821.45 in compensation.

The judgement by the Employment and Discrimination Tribunal found that the airline had unfairly dismissed her for maternity-related reasons, arguing that employers must ‘keep the door open’ to their staff, even if signed off for long periods.

Speaking after the verdict she said: ‘Being an air hostess was my life, I loved it, and I can’t do it anywhere else.

‘For them to take that away from me, just because I had a baby, broke my heart. It really broke me for a long time,’

‘Yes I get the compensation but I still lost a job I loved doing just because I had a baby. It still makes me angry

‘We shouldn’t have to be doing this in this day and age.’

Andrea, who had worked at the airline for four years, said she started her maternity leave in December 2016, and was due back at work on June 1, 2017.

But three days before she was due back she was signed off with EDS, and again at the end of June and in July.

She was then signed off a final time until September 2017, and at the start of that month she was given formal notice from the airline that was was being dismissed.

Andrea, who lives in Trinity in Jersey with husband Matt, 36, Poppy-Anne, 10, Florence, seven, and Ward, one, said that although she won her case for unfair dismissal she was disappointed they threw out her case for sexual discrimination.

The Guernsey based airline Blue Islands even tried to claim more than £2000 worth of damages back themselves – but failed.

The Elcock family have won a tribunal after Andrea was made to feel like a bad employee for her pregnancy problems. (l-r) Poppy-Anne, 10, Matt Elcock, 35, and son Ward, one, Andrea Elcock and daughter Florence, seven

The Elcock family have won a tribunal after Andrea was made to feel like a bad employee for her pregnancy problems. (l-r) Poppy-Anne, 10, Matt Elcock, 35, and son Ward, one, Andrea Elcock and daughter Florence, seven

Mrs Ward who now works as an admin assistant on Jersey, said they showed her no compassion and she lost her job just because she had a baby. 

She added: ‘I was in constant pain, I was on crutches from 16 weeks pregnant. Towards the latter stage, I couldn’t even walk, I was just getting from A to B – I couldn’t do anything else. I had a section at 37 weeks because I physically couldn’t go any further.’ 

‘I was on intensive physiotherapy. I was trying to get fit and healthy and back to work. I was trying to stop breastfeeding to try and get rid of the hormones to get myself back to work, but unfortunately my son had different ideas and didn’t want to stop.

‘It was a very difficult time.’

The hearing was presided over by Hilary Griffin, who said it was the first time the tribunal had been forced to consider whether pregnancy and childbirth had played a discriminatory part in a dismissal.

What is Ehlers-Danlos syndrome?

 Ehlers-Danlos syndromes (EDS) are a group of rare inherited conditions that affect connective tissue.

Connective tissues provide support in skin, tendons, ligaments, blood vessels, internal organs and bones.

The illness can cause major strain on joints and can make injury more likely. 

For some, the condition is relatively mild, while for others their symptoms can be disabling. Some of the rare severe types can be life-threatening.

Wounds can take a long time to heal and skin bruises easily.

The condition can also cause organ prolapse. 

She considered Blue Islands’ explanation that she was fired on ‘capability’ grounds – ‘a potentially fair reason’ – but ultimately concluded that Jersey’s law fell on Mrs Elcock’s side.

In her judgement she said: ‘Maternity leave in Jersey is significantly shorter than in the UK and consequently new mothers in Jersey have much less time in which to overcome maternity-related illnesses than they do in the UK.

‘The law therefore protects mothers after completion of maternity leave to ensure protection for those who may continue to suffer from maternity-related illness arising from the birth of a child.’

Andrea was subsequently handed an unfair dismissal award equivalent to 21 weeks’ pay and Blue Islands’ damages claim was scrapped.

Speaking after the hearing, Andrea said there should be more understanding from employers.

She said: ‘Everybody has to work, we all have to earn money, and they need to get the most out of their employees.

‘It would be nice if there was just a little bit of compassion there to understand what other people go through and to work together rather than working against each other.

Andrea Elcock, 35 and husband Matt Elcock with son Ward, one, Florence,seven and Poppy-Anne, 10

Andrea Elcock, 35 and husband Matt Elcock with son Ward, one, Florence,seven and Poppy-Anne, 10

‘We’re out the other side now so its not so bad any more, but I’m still disappointed – It was discrimination but I only got compensation for unfair dismissal.

‘I put in a claim for sexual discrimination but it was thrown out by the tribunal.

‘They discriminated against me just because I’m a woman but they didn’t get penalised for that.’

Blue Islands said it would accept the result of the tribunal and would pay the compensation.

A spokesman said: ‘While obviously disappointed with the findings of the tribunal, we respect the process and the decision but it would be inappropriate to make any further comment.’