Resort facilities

Failure to provide expressing facilities constitutes harassment

The need to express in the car or in the bathroom creates a humiliating and degrading environment.

In Mellor v MFG Academies Trust claimant was a teacher and mother of two children. Before taking maternity leave for her second child, she wrote to her employer asking for flexible working and for a room to be made available for her to express her milk regularly. This request was reiterated during her maternity leave. When the claimant returned to work – her request for flexible working having been granted – she was told that there were no premises available to express the milk and therefore she had no choice but to to use expression in their car or in the bathroom. As the claimant had no time to speak, she also often found herself trying to eat lunch at the same time. The applicant described the toilets as “unsanitary” and “disgusting” and her car as cold and in public view of other staff and students. The lack of proper space to express led to the humiliation of leaking breasts during teaching and she subsequently contracted mastitis.

The plaintiff filed a petition with the tribunal alleging direct and indirect discrimination and harassment. Although the claims of direct and indirect discrimination were unsuccessful, the labor court ruled in favor of the plaintiff with respect to the claim of harassment. It is not surprising in the circumstances that the court held that the failure to provide a suitable place to express the milk had the effect of creating a degrading and/or humiliating environment for the plaintiff.

There is currently no legal right to the provision of breastfeeding or expression facilities in the workplace. However, the health and safety manager tips recommends that employers provide adequate facilities for expressing milk and a refrigerator for storing it. Although the length of maternity leave available in the UK often means that expressing milk is not a problem when returning to work, employers should do their best to provide suitable facilities when requested.