Breastfeeding

Department for Work and Pensions written question – answered on 9th September 2019.

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Photo of Kerry McCarthy Kerry McCarthy Labour, Bristol East

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what assessment the Government has made of the potential merits of (a) bringing forward legislative proposals to protect breastfeeding mothers at work and (b) reducing the promotion of breast-milk substitutes in order to improve infant feeding in the UK.

Photo of Mims Davies Mims Davies The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

In response to bringing forward legislative proposals to protect breastfeeding mothers at work, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is not proposing to introduce legislative changes to protect breastfeeding mothers in the workplace. Breastfeeding mothers are already protected under the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 (the Workplace Regulations)

The Workplace Regulations require employers to provide suitable rest facilities for breastfeeding mothers. Employers are also recommended to provide a private, healthy and safe environment for nursing mothers to express and store milk. Comprehensive online guidance on how employers can meet their legal requirements can be found at http://www.hse.gov.uk/mothers/

Research commissioned and published in 2016 by the Equality and Human Rights Commission and Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy found that almost all employers said they understood their legal responsibility to ensure a safe working environment for mothers returning from maternity leave. Often where difficulties arose in terms of health and safety, it was due to poor communication and a lack of ongoing discussion between managers and new and expectant mothers. HSE has published guidance which emphasises the importance of this to help address any issues or concerns. It can be found at http://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/indg373.pdf

On reducing the promotion of breast-milk substitutes, there is strict legislation currently in place in the form of the EU Directive (2006/141/EC) which regulates the composition, labelling and marketing of infant formulae and follow-on formulae. The Directive reflects scientific advice on the essential composition of infant formulae and follow-on formulae and discussions at an international level in the Codex Alimentarius forum. This Directive is implemented in England by the Infant Formula and Follow on Formula (England) Regulations 2007 and similar legislation applies in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The Directive also gives effect to the principles and aims of the 1981 World Health Organisation (WHO) Code on the Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes by regulating labelling and restricting advertising and presentation of infant so as not to discourage breastfeeding.

The new Delegated Regulation (EU) 2016/127 will apply from 22nd February 2020; as a member state, the UK Government was fully involved and committed to the introduction of the new regime within the EU. In the event of EU Exit prior to 22 February 2020, the intention is therefore to make UK-wide legislation to mirror the delegated legislation as closely as possible, and to progress with implementation of the provisions.

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