Are employers under an obligation to provide breastfeeding facilities for nursing mothers?

Under reg.25(4) of the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 (SI 1992/3004) employers are under a duty to provide pregnant women and nursing mothers with "suitable facilities" to rest. The Health and Safety Executive states that these should be suitably located (eg near to toilets) and where necessary should provide appropriate facilities for the employee to lie down. While it would be good practice for employers to allow breastfeeding employees access to a private room for this purpose, and to specify a refrigerator where milk can be stored securely, there is no legal requirement to do so.

Breastfeeding at work will really be an issue only where there is a workplace nursery, as a woman's baby will not otherwise normally be at work. Where there is a workplace nursery, employers could consider allowing employees to breastfeed at their baby's normal feeding times. Even where there is no workplace nursery, it is possible that a nursing mother may still wish to express milk during the working day.

Employers should note that it may constitute indirect sex discrimination to impose on a nursing mother a provision, criterion or practice that has an adverse impact on women and puts her at a disadvantage, and which the employer cannot show to be a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim. For example, a requirement to return to a full range of duties immediately after maternity leave, where this included travel involving overnight stays, would prevent the nursing mother from breastfeeding her child.