A guide for employers on breastfeeding breaks in the workplace has been produced by ACAS (Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service). The guidance aims to help employers and employees better manage requests to breastfeed in the workplace. In most instances these requests will be for facilities to express and store milk and time away from work to do so.
What the Guidance covers
The guidance sets out what employers are required to do by law and also gives good practice around managing workplace issues that can support an employee moving back into work after her maternity leave. It covers:
•What the Law Says
•Good practice and business care
•Creating the Right Environment
•Facilities – getting it right
•Making and considering requests
•Myth-busting – frequently asked questions
What the Law Says
UK law itself continues to provide no statutory protection for a woman’s right to breastfeeding breaks, but the ACAS guidance outlines best practice for employers Currently breastfeeding mothers have the same legal rights in the workplace as pregnant women, i.e. the opportunity and place to “rest.”While it is a legal obligation for employers to regularly review general workplace risks, there is no legal requirement to conduct a specific, separate risk assessment for an employee returning from maternity leave who has notified her intention to breastfeed. However, it would be good practice for an employer to do so, to help decide if any additional action needs to be taken.
Input from La Leche League GB
LLLGB were asked by Maternity Action to be part of the expert advisory group of breastfeeding organisations to work with ACAS on developing this Guide. LLL Leaders Helen Gray, April Whincop and Ceri Glenister were involved. Parliament did not adopt proposed 2013 legislation making breastfeeding/ expressing breaks in the workplace a statutory requirement, a campaign which had been led by Maternity Action. There appears to be a lack of understanding of the biology of breastfeeding and women’s bodies by policymakers. The ACAS guidance for employers was proposed instead and the breastfeeding organisations were able to bring in evidence-based information about how milk supply works, along with the practicalities of what women need for breastfeeding breaks. The LLLGB representatives shared our leaflets on working and breastfeeding along with LLL’s extensive experience supporting women with breastfeeding as they return to work.
Thanks to this the finished Guidance more closely reflects how breastfeeding might affect women and their colleagues in the workplace and includes examples of many ways that employers can accommodate breastfeeding mothers, from flexible breaks and suitable facilities to the realisation that in some cases mothers can even feed their babies themselves during breaks, avoiding the added complications of expressing equipment and facilities entirely. Maternity Action has been commissioned to develop some further resources on breastfeeding at work, and LLLGB will continue to be involved.
You can read the guidance here: Accommodating breastfeeding employees in the workplace
LLL Leaders are able to offer information and support for women who are thinking of, or preparing to, return to the workplace. Women can find us via our local Groups, our Helpline (0345 120 2918) or Help Forms. Although it is sometimes assumed that returning to work will have to mean the end of the breastfeeding relationship many women have found ways to ensure they are able to continue nursing their baby until they are ready to stop. LLLGB can offer ideas and suggestions to help organise work and feeding and make it possible to continue.
For further information about working and breastfeeding our LLL Shop has a variety of leaflets on this subject, such as If you Leave Your Baby, When Mum Can’t be there, Workday Practicalities, Working and Breastfeeding and Staying Home Instead, at a cost of 75p each.
Our Shop also stocks the well-loved book Nursing Mother, Working Mother by Gail Pryor and a book which shares experiences of women returning to work, Hirkani’s Daughters by Jennifer Hicks.
Another useful website may be the Health and Safety Executive.
Written by Anna Burbidge on behalf of La Leche League GB