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Breastfeeding women at work: a checklist for reps

NEU reps can use this checklist to support new mothers and make your workplace breastfeeding-ready. 

Breastfeeding woman

Breastfeeding women at work

How to help secure safety, privacy, dignity and equity for women who are breastfeeding on return to work from maternity leave.

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Supporting breastfeeding women at work

  • Check with women members going on maternity leave whether and how they would like to keep in touch about union matters and include them in your NEU communications as appropriate.
  • When a new mother is returning to work, ask her what support she needs, share links to the NEU Breastfeeding women at work resources at and encourage her to attend NEU meetings.
  • Make your NEU meetings accessible, consider hybrid meetings to allow new mothers to join from home; for face-to-face meetings, make sure that the venue is suitable for breastfeeding mothers or that there is there is a suitable private, clean space for women to breastfeed or express breastmilk.

Support breastfeeding women members in securing:

  • an individual risk assessment
  • suitable facilities
  • safe and fair working arrangements
  • breastfeeding breaks.

Liaise with your district office if a member needs help lodging a grievance about her treatment at work.

Adopting the NEU model policy

  • Read the NEU resource pack, Breastfeeding women at work – – and discuss it with your union colleagues, including your health and safety rep if you have one.
  • Download and display the NEU Breastfeeding women at work poster at maternity, and send links to the poster and the member guidance to women at work who are breastfeeding,
  • Note what support your school/college has in place for breastfeeding women.
  • Call a union meeting and include the NEU Breastfeeding women at work model policy on the agenda.
  • Share the policy in advance and be prepared to summarise it at the meeting.
  • Invite, but do not pressure, women who are or who have combined breastfeeding with working to share their knowledge and experience.
  • Involve members in the development of the policy – including women on maternity leave and supply members who are new mothers.
  • Discuss at an NEU meeting what support is available at work, how this compares to the NEU model policy and what needs to be improved.
  • Ask members to vote on taking it forward to the senior leadership team (SLT).
  • Talk to workplace reps from other unions (if applicable) and ask them to support the negotiation.
  • Read the NEU Breastfeeding women at work checklist for leaders – and give a copy to your head or principal.
  • Arrange a meeting with your SLT, share the model policy and ask them to be prepared to discuss its implementation. Use the sample rep letter to heads.
  • Before you go in, make a plan. Most of the NEU demands are ensuring existing rights are respected in your workplace. How will the SLT respond and how will you deal with that?
  • If the SLT agrees to implement the policy, agree a date on which it will be reviewed.
  • If the SLT will not agree, take this back to your members. Gauge how widely and deeply felt this issue is and contact your branch secretary to ask for advice and support if you need it.
  • Keep pushing for implementation through a workplace campaign. Maintain a dialogue with your employer and the union group. Find out what are the barriers and how you will get past them – this could be a petition or some other form of collective solidarity.
  • Include your membership group at every stage of the process; keep them informed of the negotiations and encourage their input to approve changes so that everyone is fairly represented.
  • Remind the employer of the NEU checklist for leaders and monitor with members how they apply the agreed policy.
  • Share your success – inform your branch that the agreement has been reached and send a copy of the agreed policy to [email protected]

Breastfeeding women at work model policy

The aim of this model policy on breastfeeding women at work is to provide a framework that schools can adopt to secure risk assessment, suitable rest facilities, flexible adjustments and breastfeeding breaks for new mothers at work.

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