Kam Bains, HR Consultant at Higgs and Sons Solicitors responds to an Any Answers posting about breastfeeding in the workplace.
An employee has returned from maternity leave and is breast feeding and hence needs to express during the day, is there a legal requirement to allow her extra time to express or should it be conducted during her own time?
We currently have no policy and have not had to deal with this situation before.
There are currently no statutory obligations on an employer to allow an employee time off during work hours to express breast milk, or, to provide facilities for the same.
Accordingly, an employer could insist that the employee should only express milk during her break times, and, could even go as far as insisting that this is done outside of the workplace where there is no suitable space within the workplace. If however the employer allowed male employees time off for child care matters (outside of the statutory entitlement to parental leave), a refusal to make the same allowance for a female employee would be direct sex discrimination.
An employee denied time off during work hours to express could make a request for a variation to her working hours. The employee could potentially claim indirect sex discrimination if the employer refused this request without good justification. In addition, subject to having 26 weeks continuous service, the employee could make a statutory request for a variation of hours under the Flexible Working Regulations 2002 and could pursue claims, including sex discrimination, if the request was unreasonably refused.
Do you agree? Have you had a similar request? Please share your experiences with the HR Zone community by posting in the comments box below.