EOC backs mums on feeding babies in the workplace

The Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) said women still have the right to
breastfeed at work, despite a tribunal ruling that employers do not have to
provide facilities.

Last year, an employment tribunal ruled that RAF flight lieutenant Helen
Williams had been discriminated against after her employers said she should
take unpaid leave if she wished to breastfeed after her maternity leave period
had ended.

Last week the employment appeals tribunal overturned the ruling. It said no
right to breastfeed at work exists in law. But the EOC said that under health
and safety legislation, employers have to provide pregnant and breastfeeding
women with a place to rest, and the Health & Safety Executive recommends
that a room be provided.

Jenny Watson, deputy chair of the EOC, said: "Good employers recognise
that it makes good sense to give women who want to continue breastfeeding after
returning to work some flexibility to enable them to do so."

David Gibson, associate at Dickinson Dees law firm, said that best practice
does not translate into rights, and a precedent had been set that was a blow
for women.

"A good employer will have a policy regarding breastfeeding, but this
ruling shows that it is not sexual discrimination for an employer to fail to
provide breastfeeding facilities."


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