Upon returning to work, you may want to continue breastfeeding and/or provide breast milk to your baby. In light of World Breastfeeding week (1st-7th August) this article highlights your legal rights of breastfeeding whilst at work.
It is beneficial for you to inform your employer in writing that you are breastfeeding so that they can discuss what can reasonably be done to facilitate the return to the workplace.
Although there is no legal requirement to conduct a specific, separate risk assessment for an employee returning from maternity leave who has notified the intention to breastfeed, it is good practice.
The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 requires an employer to provide somewhere for a breastfeeding employee to rest and this includes being able to lie down. Health & Safety Executive Guidelines recommend that you have access to a private, clean and comfortable room with a lockable door (not a toilet or sick room) and a fridge for storage, for hygiene purposes. Although there is no legal obligation for your employer to provide these facilities, employers should consider your needs and make reasonable and proportionate adjustments where they can.
The law does not require an employer to provide paid breaks in order to breastfeed or to express milk for storage and later use. Employers should try to accommodate this as a refusal to allow an adjustment working conditions to enable to continue to breastfeed or to express milk may amount to unlawful sex discrimination.
You do have some protection under health and safety and sex discrimination legislation (the Equality Act 2010), should you feel you have been unfairly treated because you are breastfeeding.
Further, any untoward comments regarding breastfeeding could amount to unlawful harassment under the Equality Act 2010.
This is not legal advice; it is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues.