August 1st – August 7th is World Breastfeeding Week 2023, and the theme for this year is making a difference to working parents. So, what better time for employers to stop and consider, are you doing enough to support mothers returning to work?
Chances are, at some point, you’ll have an employee who, upon their return to work following maternity leave, will need to express milk. To help guide you here’s some handy advice for employers on how to navigate their legal obligations and meet HSE recommendations.
First up, let’s take stock of the responsibilities that fall on you as an employer…
What are your general responsibilities?
There’s not a whole lot of employment law out there that puts a legal responsibility on employers when it comes to supporting breastfeeding and expressing mothers in the workplace.
But that doesn’t mean you’re off the hook…
You’ll still need to put in place measures to support your staff. Particularly as pregnancy and maternity are protected characteristics under the Equality Act 2010. Placing anyone with these characteristics at a detriment could amount to discrimination. Not to mention, low employee morale and retention.
Instead, there are plenty of HSE recommendations that employers should implement, to support their staff—and stay compliant.
Giving the right breaks
Though there’s currently no law in the UK that gives parents the right to breastfeeding breaks, HSE does recommend that breastfeeding or expressing mothers are given regular rest breaks, to ensure they are at optimal health for their babies. The length, frequency, and whether these breaks are paid or not, is something to discuss and decide with your employee.
We know encouraging regular breaks and managing your staff’s time can be tricky to balance, but it doesn’t have to be if you have the right time-tracking tool to clock your staff hours.
Offering suitable facilities
Under health & safety workplace regulations employers are encouraged to offer facilities for mothers to lie down or breastfeed. This facility must be hygienic and private. You should also consider a place for mothers to store their milk, like a fridge.
Ask BrightLightning for instant accurate advice on questions like:
- What facilities do I need to provide for an expectant mother who is breastfeeding?
- What are the legal risks of not providing suitable space at work for employees expressing milk?
Don’t fall into the trap of thinking just because there’s no specific law, covering various elements of breastfeeding and expressing, you don’t need to do anything. Failing to consider adjustment requests could be a one-way ticket to employment tribunal on the grounds of sex or pregnancy discrimination.
It’s best to have a specific policy in place. It should outline all the provisions and support available for employees who are pregnant or breastfeeding. Then, you and your staff are on the same page.
It’s worth noting too that, by law, it’s necessary to carry out a risk assessment to protect pregnant workers and new mothers.
Protect your staff and your business this World Breastfeeding Week
Now, the very mention of policies might be enough to make you groan. But with BrightSafe, our complete health & safety management system, you’ve got exclusive access to a library of expert HR and health & safety policies, risk assessment templates, and guides, made by legally trained experts—all available for you to download at any time.
And if that wasn’t enough, BrightSafe provides a suite of products like incident reporting, task reminders, and e-learning, to safeguard your business and reduce risks for you and your staff.
Lean on the expertise of our health & safety experts, discover BrightSafe today.
And that’s a wrap. Tune in next week for more headlines and make sure you stay ahead of major employment law changes!