Ryanair | Airline's Chief Pilot sent sexual texts and swapped shifts to fly with women

Airline's Chief Pilot sent sexual texts and swapped shifts to fly with women

Ryanair has sacked its ‘chief pilot’ after an investigation found he’d acted inappropriately towards female pilots. 

The pilot, named by several outlets as Aidan Murray, was  dismissed with immediate effect following the probe, which declared he had demonstrated "a pattern of repeated inappropriate behaviour" towards female colleagues.

The budget airline’s Chief People Officer Darrell Hughes sent a message to staff insisting that employees should be able to work "in a safe and secure environment".

"We would ask all of you to respect the privacy and integrity of those brave individuals who came forward to assist us in this investigation,” said Hughes.

Murray had held his current role of Chief Pilot since 2020 but he had worked for Ryanair for nearly three decades, it was said.

A spokesperson for the firm, which is Europe's largest airline by passenger numbers, said it does not comment on queries relating to individual employees.

Murray, 58, allegedly harassed eight junior female colleagues, including sending text messages to some which contained comments about workers’ ‘amazing bodies’ and an ‘amazing ass’, according to the The Independent.

He was also reported he was accused of altering flight rosters to fly with certain female pilots. 

Harassment in the workplace

Recent research uncovered that a fifth of people worldwide (21%) have experienced at least one form of violence and harassment at work in their working lifetime.

More worryingly, the research also found that a majority of those who had experienced violence and harassment at work had experienced it multiple times – 61% in instances of psychological harassment, and 56% and 52% respectively for physical or sexual violence and harassment, highlighting a need for a zero-tolerance approach.

The data features in a report – Safe at Work? Global experiences of violence and harassment – which is based on the 2021 Lloyd’s Register Foundation World Risk Poll, powered by Gallup. 125,000 people across 121 countries were polled about their experiences of workplace harassment and violence, as well as the nature and frequency of it.

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The report also found that, at a global level, men were fractionally more likely to report experience of workplace violence and harassment than women (22% vs 20%), though its nature varies between the sexes.

While psychological harassment was found to be the most common form experienced by both men and women, it was found that for a third of women (33%) who had experienced violence or harassment, there was a sexual element (compared with for 15% of men).

The survey found that men’s second most common experience was a combination of psychological and physical violence and harassment (accounting for 20% or one in five male experiences), while for women it was sexual violence and harassment.

Employers must be proactive in tackling harassment

Kate Palmer, HR Advice and Consultancy at Peninsula, points out that ultimately it is the responsibility of all employers to take proactive measures to stamp out sexual harassment in the workplace.

Palmer previously told HR Grapevine: “Sadly, sexual harassment is still a very present issue in many workplaces. In fact, recent research has found that almost three-quarters (72%) of female workers have seen or been subject to inappropriate behaviour from male colleagues in the workplace.”

Palmer added: “It’s important to note that under the Equality Act 2010, employers can be held legally responsible if an employee is sexually harassed at work by a colleague if it is found they didn’t take all reasonable steps to prevent this from happening.

“As such, all businesses should pro-actively review their policies on sexual harassment, bullying and discrimination in the workplace and assess how aware employees are of them.”

Palmer said that, while a robust policy is the first step in preventing misconduct, organisations should also ensure they have a clear, zero-tolerance attitude towards this behaviour. Similarly, workplace training for managers and workers on how to manage, avoid and report inappropriate actions can go a long way in discouraging all forms of sexual harassment in the workplace, as can providing effective support for affected employees.

Palmer went on: “Earlier this year, the Equality and Human Rights Commission teamed up with UK Hospitality to publish a new action plan and checklist for employers, to help them stop sexual harassment in the workplace. This was created following research which found that most hospitality workers have experienced or witnessed sexual harassment, and most found it to be a “normal” part of the job in settings where alcohol is consumed.

“Employers in customer-facing sectors should also keep in mind that harassment may come from third parties so take extra steps to minimise the impact this could have on employees. Failure to adequately address inappropriate behaviours and creating a culture which does not facilitate diversity and inclusion can prove detrimental for organisations; those who don’t may risk tribunal claims, high turnover, and reduced productivity.”

Image - 2023 © Ryanair Group

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