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Breastfeeding and employer responsibilities

An increasing number of employers are receiving requests from women returning from maternity leave to provide them with “breastfeeding facilities” i.e. somewhere to either breastfeed or express and store breast milk. This has raised the issue of whether employers have a ‘legal obligation’ to provide such facilities, and where they are unable to do so, whether they are falling foul of the Equality Act 2010. 

Firstly, it may come as a relief to some of you to learn that while the law requires an employer to provide somewhere for a breastfeeding employee to rest (including to lie down), there is no legal requirement to provide breastfeeding facilities. Neither is there a legal obligation to undertake a risk assessment for a breastfeeding mother returning to work (though this is considered good practice).

Further, the law does not require an employer to grant paid breaks from a job in order to breastfeed or express milk. 

However, where flexible working requests are made for temporary changes in working practices as a result of breastfeeding these should be properly considered to ensure that you do not unlawfully (or unwittingly) discriminate the employee on the basis of her sex. 

So what is good practice in dealing with such requests?

  • Whether you are a large or small employer you must ensure that all requests are dealt with sensitively, fairly and objectively. Here are some tips for dealing with requests and avoiding allegations of sex discrimination: 
  • Have a written policy in place. 
  • When considering whether you can accommodate your employee in providing them with a private space, don’t forget to consider unused offices or sharing facilities with a neighbouring business. 
  • Consider short breaks from work reasonably and objectively. 
  • Look at whether you can make cost effective modifications to your business to allow employees to express milk i.e. fitting curtains in trucks. 
  • Consider accommodating the employee by way of a temporary flexible working arrangement. 
  • Consider allowing the main carer of the child access to your business premises during agreed hours for breastfeeding purposes. 
  • Finally and most importantly you should remain consistent in any approach you adopt. 

As always if I can provide you with any further assistance on queries relating to the above or any other issue, please do not hesitate to contact me for a free consultation on 0113 350 4030 or samira.cakali@scesolicitors.co.uk


Please note that the information in this blog is to provide information of general interest in a summary manner and should not be construed as individual legal advice. Readers should consult with SCE Solicitors or other professional counsel before acting on the information contained here. 

Samira Cakali

Samira Cakali is a pragmatic and approachable solicitor advocate with extensive contentious and non-contentious experience in the fields of employment law as well as civil litigation, within a range of commercial businesses from SME’s to multinationals as well as senior executives.

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