• Women make up nearly half the workforce in the UK
  • More than 80% will become mothers during their working life

If you are breastfeeding and returning to work there are things that you need to think about.

The benefits of continuing to breastfeed

Continuing to breastfeed when going back to work can be done and has many benefits for everyone –

  • Breastfeeding is protective against many childhood infections so continuing to breastfeed will mean that you are less likely to need time off for child sickness when you return to work.
  • Breastfeeding when you get home from work can be the perfect time to reconnect after time away from your baby.
  • Breastfeeding protects you from future illness too such as breast cancer and osteoporosis and the longer you breastfeed the greater the protection.

Talk to your employer

Employers in the UK have a legal obligation to provide the following to pregnant and breastfeeding women:

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

Health and Safety Protection

All employers must carry out a general workplace risk assessment and do all that they reasonably can to remove any risks to you as a breastfeeding woman.

You can find more information about possible risks here – www.hse.gov.uk

(Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 and the Employment Rights Act 1996)

Breastfeeding breaks

In the UK, breastfeeding employees don’t have a straightforward legal right to breastfeeding breaks throughout the work day. They do however, still need to consider any health and safety issues that might arise from you not breastfeeding or expressing.

You might want to discuss options with your employer for building in time to express throughout the day. Consider expressing during usual breaks in the day such as at lunchtime. You could also consider arriving at work 15 minutes early or leaving 15 minutes late to give you time to express outside of your usual work day.

Flexible working hours

All employees have the right to request flexible working hours. Your employer must seriously consider your request and can only refuse for certain reasons.

Rest facilities

Pregnant and breastfeeding employees should be provided with “suitable facilities” for them to “rest”. Such facilities would usually be a suitable place to breastfeed or to express milk (not a toilet). It’s recommended that employers should provide –

  • A private place for breastfeeding or expressing milk.
  • A secure and clean fridge for storing breastmilk at work.
  • A place to wash your hands and the pump pieces.

Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992
European Commission Health and Safety Executive

Protection from harassment

You are protected in the workplace from harassment which would include bullying or teasing because you are breastfeeding or expressing.

Links you may find useful –

Resources for Employers

PSBreastfeeding CIC – Supporting your Breastfeeding Staff 0715

Maternity Action – A leaflet giving guidance for employers

Maternity Action – Information for Employees and Employers

ACAS guide to accomodating breastfeeding in the workplace

NHS – Breastfeeding and returning to work leaflet for employers and employees

Resources for Employees –

Maternity Action – A printable resource for employees

NHS – Breastfeeding and returning to work leaflet for employers and employees

NCT – Breastfeeding and returning to work

The Breastfeeding Network – Returning to Work

If you would like any of our breastfeeding resources for your business, place of work, clients or Children’s Centre then please find a place to view and order them here