Breastfeeding in the workplace

Breastfeeding should not prevent a woman from returning to work, and there are no legal restrictions or time limits on breastfeeding in the workplace

Women planning to return to work while still breastfeeding should provide their employer with written notification of their intention before they return to work. This enables employers to have time to ensure the mother returns to a healthy, safe and suitable environment, and if they wish, to provide a place for mums to express and store milk.

Although there is no legal requirement for employers to do this, the law does require them to provide somewhere for pregnant and breastfeeding mothers to rest and this should include somewhere to lie down.

It is good practice for the employer to carry out a workplace risk assessment

When an employer is notified that an employee is to return to work while she is still breastfeeding, it is good practice, (although it is not legally binding), for the employer to carry out a workplace risk assessment.

The employer should then take the necessary measures to remove, reduce or control any identified risks. If a risk cannot be removed, an employer must take the following actions:

  • Temporarily adjust the mother’s working conditions and/or hours of work, or if that is not possible
  • Offer her suitable alternative work (at the same rate of pay) if available, or if that is not feasible
  • Suspend her from work on paid leave for as long as necessary, to protect her health and safety, and that of her child.

The Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) has a wealth of further information on this topic.

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