The European Court of Justice (CJEU) has held, in the recent case of Otero Ramos v Servicio Galego de Saude, that failure to conduct an appropriate risk assessment for a breastfeeding employee amounts to sex discrimination.

The employee in this case was an accident and emergency nurse who had made a request for an adjustment to her working pattern on account of her breastfeeding. Her concerns included the complex shift rotation system, exposure to ionising radiation, healthcare-associated infections and stress. She requested an adjusted shift pattern and preventative measures to be implemented. Her employer issued a report stating that her work did not pose any risk to her breastfeeding her child and rejected her request for an adjustment to her working conditions.

The employee filed a claim for sex discrimination against her employer, alleging that the risk assessment carried out by her employer did not comply with the requirements of EU law which provides measures to improve health and safety for pregnant and breastfeeding workers. The CJEU found that the employer had failed to perform an individual assessment of the employee’s circumstances, as required under the legislation, and rather it had conducted an assessment of the employee’s role as an accident and emergency nurse.

Accordingly, the CJEU held that failure to properly assess the risk posed by the work of a breastfeeding worker in accordance with the requirements of EU law must be regarded as less favourable treatment and constitutes direct sex discrimination.