Can employees postpone their return to work after maternity leave because they are breastfeeding?

No, there is no statutory right to time away from work for breastfeeding. However, an employee may wish to extend their 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 they accrued during maternity leave, if:

  • the employer agrees;
  • it is permitted under their contract of employment; or
  • they exercise their 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 their 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.