Ignorant staff can cause embarrassment for your business

JDW recently apologised after a breastfeeding mother was asked to cover her son’s head whilst out for a meal in one of its pubs.  The incident was described by the as an error of judgment by the member of staff but serves as a reminder to all to ensure that staff know the position on breastfeeding and deal with the issue sensitively.

Pregnancy and maternity is one of the protected characteristics under the Equality Act 2010.  The Act has specifically clarified that it is unlawful for a business to discriminate against a mother who is breastfeeding a child of any age.  A breastfeeding mother can be asked to leave a premises, but only if the reason she is asked to leave is not due to her breastfeeding.

Guidance

A pub, restaurant, hotel or coffee shop has an obligation to ensure that a woman who is breastfeeding while receiving a service – whether a cup of coffee, pint of beer or lunch – is not treated unfairly. This does not mean that you have to provide a separate facility for breastfeeding mothers but you need to ensure that they are not treated unfairly.  You must not refuse to serve a breastfeeding mother, provide her with a lower standard of service or ask her to leave.

If other customers in the bar make derogatory comments to a woman who is breastfeeding then you will be liable for these comments if they are brought to your attention and you fail to act on them.  You may decide that a quiet corner of the lounge is a more appropriate place to offer to a women who wishes to breastfeed while on your premises – you can offer this but not insist that she moves.  This protection also extends to the companions of breastfeeding mothers.