A survey of cabin crew at Aer Lingus found that more than a third had to take medication to fight sleep disruption and almost half were going to work while sick.
The Impact trade union commissioned a report by Richard Wynne of the Work Research Centre on the health and wellbeing of its members in the airline based on a survey over a 28-day period.
One of the questions crew were asked was: “On how many days have you gone to work while sick in the past 28 days?”
Almost half said they had worked at least one day while sick and 25.5% said they had done so three or more times during the survey period. The report showed that while 28.6% said the illness was not serious enough to miss work, most said the main reason cabin crew continued to work while ill was that they wanted to avoid the disciplinary action (39.4%).
“There is a very high level of dissatisfaction with the company’s sickness absence procedures,” said the union’s assistant general secretary, Michael Landers.
“Just over 40% of cabin crew responding to the survey said that they were required to see the company doctor on the first day of their absence from work due to illness. This helps to explain the high levels of ‘presenteeism’ among cabin crew, and raises genuine concerns about health and safety of staff and passengers if people are continuing to work through periods of illness.”
Mr Landers said the report also revealed significant problems with sleep disruption, with more than a third of respondents reporting that they took sleep medication once a week or more often.
The union also claimed that rosters continued to present difficulties for cabin crew, with over 80% of respondents saying they had not had the opportunity for a meal break while working, and that this had occurred, on average, just over four times during the survey period.
Mr Landers said: “During the survey period a large majority worked flight duty periods of more than nine hours, while almost a third had worked at least one flight duty period of more than 13 hours. Overall, levels of satisfaction with the roster system were low, and remain a significant problem for cabin crew staff.”
The survey was conducted in mid-2014 when the company and staff were in dispute over rosters. Aer Lingus said no input was sought from it when the survey was being compiled. It said the airline has well-established processes and procedures which address health and well-being issues.
“The structures to ensure health and well-being of our employees sit outside of the normal industrial relations frameworks,” said an airline spokesman. “The in-flight working environment is highly regulated at national, European and global levels and Aer Lingus complies with all the relevant code.”
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