RCM calls for extending legal rights to workplace breastfeeding support

By RCM calls for extending legal rights to workplace breastfeeding support on 14 September 2021 Breastfeeding Infant Feeding Employment On Employment

Employers must follow guidance on supporting breastfeeding at work says the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) in a motion to the TUC Congress. The RCM says that ACAS guidance is being ignored by many organisations and this is affecting breastfeeding rates in the UK, which are among the world’s lowest.

The RCM says that women are reporting having to express milk in staff toilets and are not getting paid breaks to breastfeed or express their milk. Many also do not have the right facilities to store expressed milk during the day. This is leading to women breastfeeding less or stopping earlier than they would like. The RCM also calls for a review and strengthening of the ACAS guidance and for it to have a statutory footing so that employers have a legal duty to do it.

Clare Livingstone, Professional Policy Advisor at the RCM and its lead on infant feeding, said: “Breastfeeding delivers considerable health benefits for the mother and baby. It is shocking that women are still facing these barriers when employers have a duty of care towards them. Poor support at work is one of the main reasons cited by women for stopping breastfeeding, and this is shameful. Employers have got to step up to the plate on this to properly accommodate mothers returning to work after having a baby.”

Although 81 per cent of mothers in the UK start breastfeeding their baby, this drops to around 17 per cent after three months. The World Health Organization advises that babies are exclusively breastfed for a minimum of six months, and that it continues for up to two years, supplemented with other food.

Clare Livingstone added, “Women face many barriers to breastfeeding, including stigma and exclusion from public places' 'It is vitally important that employers recognise their responsiblities in relation to staff wellbeing and equality in the workplace. A good start would be supporting women to continute breastfeeding their babies for as long as they choose to.”

The RCM has also made an amendment to a Chartered Society of Physiotherapy motion on COVID recovery and rehabilitation. This calls on the TUC Congress to campaign for staff wellbeing and recovery, including access for staff to mental health and psychological wellbeing services.  


To contact the RCM Media Office call 020 7312 3456, or email [email protected]

Notes to editor


For more information on the TUC Congress visit Welcome to Congress 2021 | TUC.


The Royal College of Midwives (RCM) is the only trade union and professional association dedicated to serving midwifery and the whole midwifery team. We provide workplace advice and support, professional and clinical guidance, and information, and learning opportunities with our broad range of events, conferences, and online resources. For more information visit the RCM website.