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It’s World Breastfeeding Week, and many articles have stated that some mothers who are planning on returning to work after maternity leave still wish to continue to breastfeed, and therefore, may need facilities in which to express milk on their return to work.

If you are currently breastfeeding or are planning to breastfeed, you need to know how it affects you and your rights in the workplace.

How can I carry on breastfeeding when I return to work?
There are many ways in which you can combine breastfeeding with going back to work.  If there is a workplace nursery or alternative childcare very close to your workplace, you may be able to visit your baby during the working day and breastfeed normally.  If you can’t visit your baby, you can continue to express.

You will need to talk to your employer about where and when you can express milk – which will obviously depend on where you work.  A large employer may have a ‘mother and baby room’. In other workplaces you may be able to use a first aid room, spare office or any private room, preferably with a lockable door.

Your employer should:

  • Allow access to an isolated room where women can breastfeed or express breast milk;
  • Allow you to use of secure, clean refrigerators for storing expressed breast milk while at work, and
  • Have facilities for washing, sterilising and storing receptacles.

Am I entitled to breastfeeding breaks?
Unfortunately not.  You should be allowed to take breaks when you need them, but your employer can ask that you fit these around your existing breaks or lunch hour or fit them in around the demands of your job.

Rest facilities
Employers have a duty to arrange “suitable facilities” for a breastfeeding employee to “rest”. These facilities should, where necessary, include the facility to lie down and should be a suitable place for breastfeeding or expressing.  There has been recent debate about whether a ladies’ toilet was an appropriate place in which to collect milk.

Communication with your employer
Think about what you want / need before you go back to work following your maternity leave.  Communication is key, so speak to your manager or a relevant person to discuss what you need to support you in continuing to express / breastfeed when you return.

Your legal rights
In the UK, breastfeeding mothers have some legal protection under health and safety and sex discrimination laws.  Employers have legal obligations to provide:

  • Health and safety protection
  • Flexible working hours and protection from indirect sex discrimination
  • Rest facilities
  • Protection from harassment

To speak to Gorvins about your rights surrounding maternity leave and pregnancy or if you have an employment issue in the workplace, call 0343 507 5151 or alternatively you can email enquiries@gorvins.com.