Breastfeeding At Work

Posted: Wednesday December 6 2017

By: Abbie Coleman

I have received 3 enquiries recently about breastfeeding at work and thought it may be of interest the MMB readers.

Breastfeeding at work – What are the rights regarding breastfeeding upon return to work?

By Marie Walsh

If you are returning to work whilst breastfeeding what are your rights and what as employers should we all know?

Firstly breastfeeding covers both feeding and expressing.

From a health and safety perspective, an employer is required to assess the risks to its employees (including an employee who is breastfeeding). It must also do what is reasonably practicable to control those risks

The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations also requires employers to provide suitable facilities for breastfeeding mothers to rest (including facilities to lie down) and to provide adequate rest and meal breaks.

It’s safe to say that the toilet is not deemed a suitable facility.

All this being said there is no statutory right to time off work for breastfeeding.

There is also no legislation which requires the provision of facilities for breastfeeding itself.

There is only guidance which recommends that a private, clean environment and a fridge for storing any expressed milk should be provided.

Under the Equality Act 2010 the law in the UK does now provide that, for the purposes of direct discrimination, less favourable treatment of a woman “includes less favourable treatment of her because she is breastfeeding” (section 13(6)(a)). However, that provision is expressed not to apply to discrimination at work.

Various proposals have been put forward to allow employees to take breaks to breastfeed at work but none have so far made it into legislation.  So currently in the UK if an employer refuses to allow a woman the facilities or flexibility required to enable her to breastfeed or express the only legal recourse she can explore is that the employer is acting in an indirectly discriminatory manner.   If a claim for indirect discrimination is commenced against an employer it is then open for it to objectively justify its policy.

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