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Breastfeeding in public can mean breastfeeding in front of a friend or relative in your own home, or in a public area, such as a coffee shop or shopping centre. Surveys actually show that the majority of people don’t mind women breastfeeding in public at all. (NHS.net)

Despite the growing level of confidence in new mothers, year after year there are reports of mothers confronted by members of staff across different organisations requesting that they do not breastfeed, or telling them that they cannot breastfeed; one of the most recent occurrences was in a Costa café last month in Manchester.

Alternatively, in February this year Runway 26, a Manchester airport café was the first BOOBS approved venue, where breast feeding mums will be welcomed. BOOBS is the revamped Salford Breastfeeding Welcome scheme, it stands for Be Open on Breastfeeding in Salford. The group produced posters to put up in venues to highlight breastfeeding friendly establishments to mums out and about.

So what are your rights with business establishments and breastfeeding?

The Equality Act 2010 has made it illegal for anyone to ask a breastfeeding woman to leave a public place, such as a cafe, shop or public transport, so you should never be made to feel uncomfortable, or asked to leave. The Act states, “A business cannot discriminate against mothers who are breastfeeding a child of any age. It is discrimination to treat a woman unfavourably because she is breastfeeding. “

What does this mean?

  • It’s unlawful for business owners or staff in an organisation, such as a café, shop or leisure centre, to ask you (and anyone with you) to leave their premises because you are breastfeeding a child.
  • It’s unlawful for the owners or staff of a business to refuse to serve you because you are breastfeeding a baby.
  • You are within your rights to breastfeed in public open spaces, including parks, high-street benches, and on public transport, including buses and trains. You’re also protected in hospitals, theatres, cinemas and petrol stations.

Businesses in England and Wales must also:

  • Ensure that any woman they are providing services to – whether that’s a cup of coffee or an ice skating rink – is allowed to breastfeed on their premises if she wants to.
  • Make sure that mums are not discriminated against, harassed or victimised because they are breastfeeding a baby.
  • Make sure employees have training, so that they are aware of the protection from discrimination given to breastfeeding mothers.

Organisations including Costa have apologised for the treatment of breastfeeding mothers after being refused service or asked to leave or stop breastfeeding. If you experience such treatment, you can seek legal advice.

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.