Breastfeeding in public

What type of business do you have? Is it retail, an office or somewhere else?

Whatever industry it may be, picture the scenario that you are conducting your normal duties and you come across a woman breastfeeding her child quietly. How do you feel and what to do you?

More and more in the press and social media we are seeing women being victimised or made to feel a lesser person while they go about one of the most natural activities a mother could.  While breastfeeding may not be something that every mother wishes to do or in public, the Equality Act 2010 protects those who do wish to breastfeed if they are being treated less favourably for doing so.

What does this mean for you, your business, your customers and your staff?

The Equality Act 2010 quickstart guide (2016) states that the law is there to protect “people who access your goods, facilities or services” meaning someone on your premises, would be protected even if they are yet to be a customer, due to them having access.

Best practice would be to allow breastfeeding on your grounds regardless of how old the infant is and in addition to upskill your employees to be aware that they could be discriminating by asking them to stop or to leave. They should also be aware of perception, if someone who is breastfeeding feels that they are treated unfavourably compared to others then they could bring a claim on the basis of breastfeeding – even if that wasn’t the intention. In the same sense, a customer could claim discrimination and say that it was due to breastfeeding even if your reasoning is completely different so be aware.

Should we therefore treat people differently for fear of discrimination? Really it would be best practice to have an adequate policy in place or code of conduct that means we treat everyone the same and everyone how we would want to be treated in the best possible way in turn that would give great repeat business.


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