Iberia is being fined for forcing female job applicants to undergo pregnancy tests, prompting a outcry over sexism at the Spanish national flag carrier.

Iberia, owned by British Airways parent International Airlines Group, reportedly drew criticism on social media after claiming the measure was aimed at ensuring “the wellbeing of the baby and future mother”.

The airline had argued that the test for flight crew applicants was not intended to filter out expectant mothers, but instead make sure they were placed in roles that would not involve any risk to the pregnancy.

But authorities in Majorca – where the practice was originally discovered – rejected that claim, ordering Iberia to pay €25,000 for what was described as a serious act of gender discrimination, the Daily Telegraph reported.

Iago Negueruela, the work, trade and industry secretary for the Balearic Islands government, said Iberia was guilty of a “very grave infraction” and that men and women could not be given different tests for access to work.

Iberia had not been asking male applicants if they were going to become fathers, Negueruela told Cadena Sur radio, insisting: “Any practice of this type must be excluded from the job market.”

Iberia has now said it will drop the requirement and instead “trust” its female employees to notify their bosses of pregnancies.

The airline insisted it had “at no moment” refused a woman for a position because she was pregnant.

Since the beginning of 2016, it had moved 60 female employees to alternative roles due to pregnancies, the company stressed, adding that 71% of its cabin crew are women.

The use of pregnancy tests was first discovered a year ago by inspectors on the Balearic Islands, who were then told by the airline – reportedly in an attempt at justification – that it formed part of its hiring process nationwide.

The tests, as well as other medical examinations for both genders, were carried out by a human resources contractor which operates Iberia’s recruitment.

Women are only required to notify employers of pregnancies after being hired and cannot be penalised or dismissed under Spanish law.

The General Workers’ Union said that airlines were obliged to protect pregnant workers from posts that might put their unborn babies at risk, but that pregnancy tests before hiring constituted “a clear case of discrimination”.

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