Breastfeeding in the Workplace

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In a previous blog we considered what actions are required by employers when notified an employee is pregnant. This blog looks at the actions required when an employee returns from maternity leave whilst still breast feeding their baby.

An employee is required to give her employer written notification that she is breastfeeding and hopefully this would be provided before she returns from maternity leave so that arrangements can be made for her to return to a healthy, safe and suitable environment. It will not be appropriate for her to be required to use the toilets for example to express and store milk. However, it’s all about what is reasonable even though there is no legal requirement for an employer to provide a private, healthy and safe environment. There is a legal requirement for an employer to provide pregnant and breastfeeding mothers somewhere to rest and to lie down.

Employers are required to consider any risks that could case harm to the mother or the child’s health and safety for as long as she wishes to continue breastfeeding.

So what risks should be considered? Possible risks are:
  • Physical agents – movements and postures, manual handling, shocks and vibrations, noise, radiation, compressed air and diving, underground mining work
  • Biological agents – infectious diseases
  • Chemical agents – Toxic chemicals, mercury, antimitotic drugs, pesticides, carbon monoxide, lead
  • Working conditions – facilities including rest rooms, mental and physical fatigue, working hours, night working, stress including post-natal depression, passive smoking, temperature, working with visual display units, working alone, working at height, travelling, violence, personal protective equipment, nutrition
If an employee has been given specific advice by a GP or midwife about their health, then the employer is obligated to adjust the working conditions accordingly.

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