Breastfeeding after maternity leave: your rights
The law on your employment rights when breastfeeding can be a bit confusing.
Your employer is obliged to provide you with suitable facilities to rest if you are breastfeeding, but there is no specific right to take a break for the purpose of breastfeeding or expressing. While the Health and Safety Executive advises employers that employees should not have to express milk in toilets and that suitable, healthy and safe facilities should be made available, ultimately there is no legal obligation on employers to provide such facilities.
What if I need to vary my working hours or other arrangements to maintain breastfeeding?
Have a look at our factsheet on flexible working. Always try negotiating with your employer if possible and consider using your employer's grievance procedure if necessary.
Some employers may be unfamiliar with the concept of expressing and need some educating, whereas a large employer may have a written policy on the subject.
A refusal to change your arrangements so you can breastfeed or express milk may amount to sex discrimination.
Furthermore, your employer is obliged to conduct a risk assessment to consider whether aspects of your work cause risk to the health of you or your baby - for more information see our factsheet on Risk Assessments and Suspension.
If you are having difficulty convincing your employer that you need to take breaks, it may be worth asking to speak to the people carrying out that assessment (or write to them). In some cases it could be argued that a failure to provide a breastfeeding mother with adequate expressing breaks presens a risk to her baby's health.
This content was created for Mumsnet by two barristers specialising in discrimination and parents' rights at work, Natasha Joffe and Lydia Seymour. Please have a look at our disclaimer and bear in mind that the information provided is no substitute for specific advice on your individual case.
Last updated: over 3 years ago