Can an employee postpone her return to work after maternity leave because she is breastfeeding?

No, there is no statutory right to time away from work for breastfeeding. However, an employee may wish to extend her time away from work following maternity leave by taking paid annual leave or unpaid ordinary parental leave.

Following maternity leave, an employee will be able to take holiday that she accrued during maternity leave, if:

  • the employer agrees;
  • it is permitted under her contract of employment; or
  • she exercises her rights under the Working Time Regulations 1998 (SI 1998/1833), (subject to compliance with the requirements for giving notice and the employer's right to prescribe when leave may or may not be taken).

Under the Maternity and Parental leave etc Regulations 1999 (SI 1999/3312), an employee may take unpaid ordinary parental leave of up to 18 weeks in respect of an individual child up to the child's 18th birthday. However, the employer can require the employee to postpone her leave by up to six months where it would unreasonably interfere with business needs, provided that it confirms this in writing within seven days of the employee's request.