Pregnancy at work

Breastfeeding and the workplace


There are business benefits for employers who take proactive steps to discuss and promote breastfeeding with employees returning from maternity leave to help facilitate their transition back to work.

Business benefits

  • Increased motivation of employees and a better working culture, leading to greater flexibility and better communication.
  • Health and wellbeing benefits to your employees.
  • Reduction in absenteeism and staff turnover.
  • Increased quality, greater levels of innovation and creativity, and improved productivity.
  • Overall improved customer service.
  • Raised public image of the company and competitive advantage, making it more attractive as an employer of choice.
  • Contributes to an inclusive working culture.

Breastfeeding and rest periods

Employers are required by law to provide somewhere for breastfeeding employees to rest. Where necessary, this should include somewhere for them to lie down.

Although there is no legal right for an employee to take time off from their job in order to breastfeed, express milk for storage and later use, or take rest periods you should consider adapting working hours to enable an employee to continue to breastfeed or express milk. A refusal to accommodate a breastfeeding employee may amount to unlawful sex discrimination if it cannot be justified.

Breastfeeding facilities

It is recommended good practice that employers provide a private, healthy, and safe environment for breastfeeding employees to express milk and provide somewhere to appropriately store breast milk eg in a fridge or cool area, perhaps secured in a re-sealable container for hygiene purposes. The private space may be an unoccupied office or an area that can be discreetly screened. Toilet facilities are not a suitable hygienic place for this purpose.

If, after careful consideration, you are unable to provide an appropriate space, you should discuss the issue with the employee to see if there is an alternative facility.

Breastfeeding workplace policy

It is good practice to have a written workplace policy on breastfeeding clearly outlining the employer and employee's responsibilities. This will provide clarity around how requests can be made and will be considered by the employer. This will assist you in making objective, correct, and fair decisions. Implementing such a workplace policy demonstrates your principles and commitment as an employer to supporting employees who are breastfeeding to help create a positive and inclusive workplace where discrimination in any form is unacceptable and will not be tolerated.

Workplace health and safety for breastfeeding employees

There may be a number of risk factors in the workplace that may be harmful to a breastfeeding employee or her child’s health. You should take steps to identify these risks and consider how you can remove them for the safety of your employees.

For further information, see health and safety of pregnant workers.