Women seafarers

Your rights and who to contact for advice

If you work at sea and need help and advice on labour issues, contact your seafarers’ union. By joining an ITF-affiliated union, you also gain additional benefits and protection.

We have more than 150 inspectors and contacts based in ports worldwide and trained to be sensitive to gender issues. If you have concerns about working conditions, salaries and ship health and safety, contact one of our ITF Inspectors.

Maternity rights for women seafarers

Your maternity rights will vary depending on where you work.

  • National flag vessels If you are sailing under the flag of your own country, you’ll be covered by your own country's legislation and any rights guaranteed under your union's collective bargaining agreements.  
  • Flag of convenience (FOC) vessels Maternity rights are governed by the legislation of the flag state, which may not give you any rights at all. However, minimum rights are guaranteed under ITF-approved agreements.
  • Merchant vessels ITF-approved agreements stipulate that pregnant seafarers must be repatriated at the cost of the company and receive two months’ full pay in compensation. If your company is refusing to apply these rules, contact an ITF Inspector

Where the ship is trading in coastal waters or there’s a doctor on board, it’s generally safe for pregnant women to work later into pregnancy – in British waters, for example, up to 28 weeks. However, on deep-sea vessels, the risks of being pregnant at sea need to be assessed carefully. For advice, contact your union or an ITF Inspector.

Remember, becoming pregnant is not a disciplinary offence. The ITF strongly condemns employers who take action against pregnant women.

Need confidential advice? SeafarerHelp can refer you.

Bullying, harassment and discrimination

In a male-dominated industry, it’s often – although not exclusively – women who are victims of bully, harassment or discrimination.

Bullying and harassment are serious issues that can seriously affect workers' health and undermine their ability to do their jobs. We’ve developed a policy to deal with it. European ship owners and European Transport Workers' Federation unions have also agreed clear guidelines.

Download our bullying and harassment pdf

Discrimination takes many forms, including:

  • denial of work or job opportunities on the grounds of gender, race, nationality or other
  • unequal pay for work of equal value
  • a lack of facilities or equipment that are available to members of the opposite sex

It is not discriminatory treatment if you’re given a job you don't like, but which IS usually done by workers of the opposite sex of the same grade.

If you are experiencing bullying, harassment or discrimination, contact your union, or one of our ITF Inspectors.

Find out more about what ITF is doing for women transport workers.

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