Breastfeeding is normal and natural
Breastfeeding your baby is a normal and natural thing to do.
Most mothers work out where and how they can feed their babies when they are out so that they feel relaxed and comfortable.
You are allowed to breastfeed in public places, such as shopping centres, restaurants, hotels, and public transport, and you’re also allowed to breastfeed and express milk while you are at work.
In Australia, it is against the law to be discriminated against on the basis of pregnancy, breastfeeding or expressing milk.
What is breastfeeding discrimination?
Although breastfeeding is acknowledged as important for mothers and babies, some people make critical comments or confront mothers with unnecessary (and illegal) “rules”.
For example, it may be unlawful discrimination if staff or management at a café or at your workplace tells you, “You can’t do that here” – or asks you to leave because you are breastfeeding.
Discrimination on the basis of breastfeeding can also include degrading or humiliating comments, as well as unreasonable workplace policies and practices that are impossible for an employee who is breastfeeding or expressing milk to fulfill.
You should not feel that you have to resign from your job because you are breastfeeding, or feel pressured into giving up breastfeeding in order to return to work.
If you are at work, you are entitled to be given:
- breaks so that you can express milk, or feed your baby, and
- a place where you can express or feed comfortably.
What the law says
The Sex Discrimination Act makes it unlawful to discriminate against a person on the grounds of pregnancy, breastfeeding or expressing milk.
This means it is illegal to take adverse action against a woman who is breastfeeding, or to treat a woman less favourably than another person who is not breastfeeding, in the areas of education, employment, or when accessing goods and services.
- A woman cannot be asked to leave a café for breastfeeding her baby
- A woman cannot be refused employment, or denied a promotion, because she is breastfeeding
- A woman cannot be excluded from class, or expelled from a school or university or TAFE because she is breastfeeding
Breastfeeding discrimination is unlawful when you are:
- a customer (such as at a café, hotel, club, restaurant, or sporting venue)
- a worker, or applying for work
- a student
- accessing government or other services.
You are allowed to breastfeed in public places, such as shopping centres, restaurants, gyms, hotels, sporting venues and public transport.
How we can help
If you have experienced discrimination on the basis of breastfeeding or expressing milk, our team of Australian workplace lawyers and industrial advocates at Discrimination Claims can help.
We can take action on your behalf and represent you in the Human Rights Commission, Fair Work Commission or Industrial Relations Commission, or any other relevant court or tribunal.
We are specialists at negotiating large compensation payments for those who have been subjected to unlawful discrimination, including breastfeeding discrimination.
IMPORTANT: If you have been dismissed from employment because of breastfeeding, you only have 21 days from the date of your dismissal to lodge a claim, so don’t delay!
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LAST UPDATED: January 2023