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Breastfeeding at work - your rights and employers obligations

1. What does breastfeeding in the workplace actually mean?

For an employee living close by, it may mean going home to feed their baby.

It may also mean an employee chooses someone to bring their baby to work to be fed.

Most likely, it means an employee will express milk and store it in a cool place until she finishes work. 

2. What is the law?

Your employer has a legal obligation to provide a space for a breastfeeding employee to breastfeed, rest, express or lie down*. This is covered by The Equality Act 2010

However, the employer by law does not have to provide a breastfeeding employee paid break from the job in order to breastfeed or express milk. Employers need to be careful not to discriminate against breastfeeding employees, hence a short break from work which is unlikely to have an impact on business should be reasonably allowed. If an employer is unable to grant additional breaks they could consider slightly extending normals breaks to accommodate the employee. 

There is no formal requirement for companies to have a policy on breastfeeding.

There should be no time limit imposed on an employee to be allowed to express within reason. It’s a mothers wish how long she wants to continue breastfeeding and the employer has to take this into account.

3. Facilities

 Employers, where possible, should provide a private, hygienic and safe area where the employee feels safe to feed or express.

 It is inappropriate to use toilets or sick rooms as there may be a hygiene risk.

 Most work places would have a suitable area that contains a fridge or cool area, where an employee can store expressed milk. It is important that the breastfeeding employee has access to clean and sterile hygienic facilities to store the milk.

 

*The approved code of Practice issued by the Health and Safety executive says that by law, employers must provide a suitable place to lie down.

*Source: www.unicef.org.uk

Other sources:-

www.hse.gov.uk/mothers/

www.acas.gov.uk

Helpful links:-

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/breastfeeding-back-to-work/

https://www.nct.org.uk/life-parent/work-and-childcare/returning-work/breastfeeding-and-returning-work