Ex-Jet2 cabin worker claims she was forced to quit job over short haircut

A former Jet2 cabin crew member has claimed she was forced out of her job over her haircut.

Marion McKay told an employment tribunal in Edinburgh she was signed off work due to stress after bosses at the airline threatened to ban her from working on flights unless she changed her short hair.

The 52-year-old from Edinburgh said she was left reeling at the demand, after having been assessed twice without complaint during the company’s “Red Hot” week - where employees are rated on their appearance.

Marion, who believes she was left with no choice but to resign, is now seeking £22,000 in compensation from Jet2 due to emotional distress and loss of earnings.

The airline denies any wrongdoing.

Her lawyer, Amanda Buchanan, told the tribunal: “She initially tried to comply because she loved her job, but then didn’t want to change herself and after reflecting on it, she resigned."

When Marion was hired by the airline in June 2022, she had a gender-neutral haircut described as a "short cut and sides". She was asked to cover her tattoos, but said there was no mention of her hair not meeting standards.

She claims management failed to raise the issue until around 14 months later, when a senior member of staff requested that she grow it out - despite male members of staff sporting similar styles without facing any action from the company.

On August 6 2022, Marion attended her first annual "Red Hot" week where cabin crew are judged on makeup, hair and clothes, and passed with no issue.

On July 7 2023, Marion passed her second "Red Hot" week, again, with no issues raised about her appearance.

But just three days later, before a flight to Antalya on July 10, Marion claims a member of cabin crew management informed her that her current hairstyle "did not meet company standards".

She was then allegedly told that she would be refused to fly if she did not change her hair.

Stuart Mckenzie, deputy cabin crew manager, told the tribunal: “I spoke to the claimant about her hair on the tenth of July.

"We planned to approach her during Red Hot Week, but it was too busy. We intended to still speak to her, but were looking for an appropriate time to do it.

“The claimant was not prevented from flying. Her hair doesn’t fit with the guidelines because it is an extreme style. We spoke about potentially growing her hair out at the sides."

On 14 July 2023, due to the stress and anxiety caused by her working situation, Marion was signed off sick with work-related stress.

Then on 22 July 2023 in response to the airlines' conduct, Marion formally resigned via email with her employment ending on 13 August 2023.

Mr McKenzie added: “She resigned. There was no bad blood between managers and she enjoyed her time with the company.

“If the claimant was a man, the action I would have taken towards her hair would have been the same."

Kelly Bolton, cabin services regional manager, added that Marion's hair was "more extreme" than the styles of her male colleagues.

She said: "She had changed her hair since she started. The claimant's hairstyle was more extreme and shaven.

"If she was a man we would approach her to let her know it is not in line with company guidance. We would have done that for anyone."

But Marion's lawyer, Amanda Buchanan, argued that her client was treated "more stringently" because she is female.

She said: “Being asked to change hairstyle and having the policy enforced should be applied evenly between men and women. It should not be applied more stringently to females and that is what I believe has happened here.

“The comparisons from her colleague's hair to Marion's were extremely similar, in height, in the ways they were short and shaven. Just looking at the pictures they look the same.

“Her manager had taken a view that her hair was extreme because she was female, not because of the policy.

“Why were no male members of staff spoken to regarding how short their hair was? The claimant felt distressed and upset about having to change her appearance and took it very much to heart.”

Prior to resigning, Marion emailed Stuart Mckenzie and asked what would happen if she didn't change her hairstyle. The tribunal heard he did not respond or consult HR on the matter.

When asked, Kelly Bolton said she was unsure if he should have sought advice from HR.

The tribunal will return its verdict in 28 days.

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