Returning to work? Know your rights!

Sad times are afoot! Your maternity leave is over and you’re returning to work. You’ve decided to let your baby self wean from your fabulous jugs so you may need to express or feed your baby when you’re back doing the 9-5 (other work patterns are available! Ask them!). Are your employers ready for this? Are you?!

One of my favourite sayings is ‘knowledge is power’ so whilst some managers and work places may be very accommodating to you having to nip off every 3 or so hours for (potentially) 20-45mins in order to syphon off your liquid gold or sprint over to your childcare provider to ensure your baby has a full tummy, some most definitely are not! Just because you’ve told them you’ll be coming back to work a lactating mama who will need to express/breastfeed during working hours (which you should, in writing, well in advance of your return), don’t expect them to have boned up on your rights!

So, what does the law say?

Firstly you *must* let them know that you are going to continue to give your baby your milk and they should support you to do this.

Find your works pregnancy and breastfeeding policy. Read it! Make notes!

Your employer should carry out a risk assessment so they can manage and/or remove any risks to your health or your baby’s health (like the one you should have had when you told them you were pregnant). You have this health and safety protection for as long as you are breastfeeding. If your employer is unable to remove risks then you must be offered suitable alternative work, if this exists. If no such work is available then you must be suspended from work on full pay.

The Pregnant Workers Directive ( (1992)) covers public sector workers by stating that work must not affect the breastfeeding of a worker.

Both Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 (the Workplace Regulations) ( (1992)) specify and European Commission guidelines ( (2000)) recommend that breastfeeding workers should have access to a private room in which to express, have use of a secure, clean refrigerator for storing expressed breast milk, time off (without loss of pay or benefits, and without fear of penalty) to express or breastfeed and that it may be a health and safety risk if your employer is unable to provide these facilities.

If you are sacked or treated less well because you are breastfeeding you may have a claim for sex discrimination.

TOILETS are *NOT* a suitable place to express!! Yes they may be private and secure but, eurgh, really!

The HSE website is *fantastic* and has so much information!

Reference. (2000) ‘Communication from the Commission on the Guidelines on the assessment of the chemical, physical and biological agents and industrial processes considered hazardous for the safety or health of pregnant workers and workers who have recently given birth or are breastfeeding (Council Directive 92/85/EEC)’. [online] Available from

(Accessed 27th December 2016) (1992) ‘ Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations’. [online] Available from

(Accessed 27th December 2016) (1992) ‘Directive 92/85/EEC – pregnant workers’. [online] Available from

(Accessed 27th December 2016)


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