Female ATCOs and Shift Work

Female ATCOs and Shift Work

34TH ANNUAL CONFERENCE, Jerusalem, Israel, 27-31 March 1995

WP No. 131

Female ATCOs and Shift Work


A working paper on this subject was requested of SC4 at the 33rd Annual Conference in Ottawa. As the subject covers a wide field, the originating MA (Aruba) later asked that SC4 look into the particular problems of pregnant ATCOs on shift work.


SC4 reviewed the available information to identify firstly, the general effects of pregnancy in the work environment, and secondly, how these could be exacerbated by shift work in ATC.

The physical effects of pregnancy can be noticeable from a quite early stage of pregnancy and can last until the sixth month after the birth or until breast-feeding stops. Moreover, since pregnancy is a dynamic state, these probably vary in their impact throughout the pregnancy.

Possible problems of Pregnancy in the work place are:

General Effects -> ATC Shift Work

  • Morning sickness -> Immediate relief required
  • Backache -> Posture: Standing, moving in a confined space
  • Varicose veins -> Posture: as above
  • Expanding girth -> Working in confined area
  • Frequency of urination -> Immediate relief required
  • Tiredness -> Adequate rest periods as required
  • Breast Feeding -> Short shifts

ATC employers should attempt to avoid the development of any situation which might prejudice the health of pregnant ATCOs on shift-work, but if this is not possible, then other solutions must be found. In order to maintain the health and work performance of pregnant ATCOs, relief cover is required to provide adequate rest periods. Where adequate relief cover does not exist, (e.g. solo night shifts), or where ergonomic difficulties arise, consideration must be given to reducing the length of each shift duty, transferring to day-time work, or to another non-shift-working job within ATC. The choice of the most appropriate solution should be made by the pregnant themselves, on an individual basis.

IFATCA Policy on pregnant ATCOs and VDU already exists on page, para 2.6. of the IFATCA Manual. The option of suspension-with-pay, together with job-retention-rights during periods of absence must also be made available. However, a balance is needed between protecting the health and safety of women and protecting their opportunities to compete on equal terms with men in the labour market. Each absence should therefore be cover by a Medical Certificate and each pregnant ATCOs case should be considered on an individual basis.


Pregnant ATCOs can experience physiological problems in the ATC environment, which may be exacerbated by shift work. ATC employers should attempt to minimise the effect of these problems before they occur.

Relief cover should be available to provide adequate rest periods when required by pregnant ATCOs. Where this relief cover is not available, or where ergonomic difficulties arise, pregnant ATCOs should have the right to transfer to the most appropriate ATC task of their choice for which they are qualified.

When recommended by pregnant ATCOs own physicians, adequate leave (with pay) should be provided, together with protection of equal-opportunity-rights.


Insert in IFATCA Manual at page 4222, para 2.6 the following:

2.6.1  Pregnancy is a normal female human condition which must not result in automatic suspension of an ATCO’s licence.

2.6.2  When considering the design of the workplace and working conditions, employers should also take into account the requirement of pregnant ATCOs.

2.6.3  Pregnant ATCOs have the right to expect that the possible physiological problems associated with pregnancy will be accommodated by their employers in the form of available relief staff.

2.6.4  Pregnant ATCOs should have the right to transfer temporarily from shift work to day-time working if they so choose.

2.6.5  Pregnant ATCOs should have the right transfer temporarily to non-operational positions if they so choose.

2.6.7  When recommended by a pregnant ATCOs own physician adequate leave with pay should be provided

2.6.8  Adequate maternity leave, together with protection of the equal-opportunity-rights of pregnant ATCOs should be provided.

Renumber existing para 2.6 as para 2.6.6.

Last Update: September 28, 2020  

February 12, 2020   320   Jean-Francois Lepage    1995    

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