Breastfeeding remains a hot topic

A European case has recently received a lot of publicity. The issue of breastfeeding mothers is a sensitive subject that can stir up a lot of emotion.

What is interesting about the case is that the employer was a hospital - an employer which should not be found to be lacking in relation to care of its breastfeeding employees.

A nurse at a Spanish hospital in the Accident and Emergency department returned to work after she had her child. She asked for adjustments to her working conditions as she was breastfeeding. The hospital refused, claiming that her job was 'risk free'.  The employee's first court claim was unsuccessful, as a result of which her claim for social security was refused. The employee presented a letter from her line manager, which stated that working in A&E did pose a risk to her as a breastfeeding mother. 

On appeal, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) considered that the hospital's risk assessment procedure for breastfeeding mothers was not appropriate.  As a result of this, the employee had been subject to direct sex discrimination.   

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has produced a set of frequently asked questions which refers to the EU guidance.  It is to assist employers when faced with breastfeeding mothers who are returning to work.  At the very least, a general risk assessment is advised when an employer discovers that an employee is pregnant or breastfeeding.

Link to HSE guidance:

To discuss this or any other employment related matter, contact us.

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