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Breastfeeding mums & discrimination: know your rights

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What does the law say?

Treating a woman less favourably because of her recent childbirth or an illness related to this, can amount to discrimination. As with the example above, this includes treating her less favourably because she was breastfeeding.

The Equality Act 2010 refers to this as maternity discrimination. The law protects you for 26 weeks from the day you give birth. If you are treated less favourably because you were breastfeeding after this period, such conduct could amount to sex discrimination.

Less favourable treatment can include not being served, being asked to stop or cover up, or even being asked to leave the premises. It can also include not being awarded a job or promotion.

If this has happened to you, you can potentially take action in the civil courts or employment tribunal.

Can I breastfeed in public?

For the most part, yes.

Employers, public bodies, businesses and service providers are generally required to allow you to breastfeed your baby on their premises. However, exceptions may apply where there is a genuine health and safety concern.

What can I do if I feel I have been discriminated against?

If you have been treated less favourably by an employer, public body, business or service provider because you were breastfeeding, please know that you may be able to do something about it. You can potentially take action in the Civil Courts or Employment Tribunal.

If you would like further advice, please contact the team on 0345 122 8665.

By discrimination advisor, Alice Payne