Breastfeeding is cited as having many health advantages including significantly lowering the risk of infections, obesity and diabetes in the breastfed child as well as improving a breastfeeding women’s protection from breast cancer.
The World Health Organisation recommends exclusively breastfeeding for 6 months. According to The Manifesto 9 out 10 women stop breastfeeding after 6 weeks even though they would have liked to continue. The most common reason for these women stopping breastfeeding is their return to work.
Health and Safety Regulations currently require employers to provide suitable facilities to rest and adequate meal and rest breaks for breastfeeding mothers. Law does not require employers to provide facilities to actually breastfeed or store milk but guidance (usually supported by Employment Tribunals) suggests employers should.
If an employer fails to allow a breastfeeding woman the flexibility required to breastfeed or express milk, this may be indirectly discriminatory unless the employer can justify its policy objectively.
Other countries in Europe already provide breastfeeding breaks for women at work and it is likely to continue to be a hot topic. Maybe those now redundant old smoking rooms could be aired and given a new purpose? Before refusing an employee the facilities or flexibility she needs to breastfeed, we suggest you seek advice to ensure you are not acting in a discriminatory manner.