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Protection from Breastfeeding Discrimination and Harassment

Amendments have been made to the Sex Discrimination Ordinance (SDO) to provide protection from breastfeeding discrimination and breastfeeding harassment in employment, education, and provision of goods, facilities or services, etc. Breastfeeding harassment is also unlawful among workplace participants (including contract workers employed by contractors or sub-contractors, interns, volunteers, and co-working space users, etc.) in common workplaces.

The Equal Opportunity Policy of the University prohibits, inter alia, breastfeeding discrimination and breastfeeding harassment.

Meaning of Breastfeeding under SDO

Under the SDO, the definition of breastfeeding covers a woman who is breastfeeding or expressing milk for a child, whether the child is her biological child or not. It also covers a woman who feeds a child with her breast milk, but is not doing so at the time the act of discrimination/harassment is committed.

What is Breastfeeding Discrimination?

  1. Direct discrimination

    Direct discrimination means treating a breastfeeding woman less favourably than another person (a woman not breastfeeding or a man) in comparable circumstances, on the basis that the woman is breastfeeding. Examples:

    • A staff member is not allowed to use a meeting room in the office to express milk, whereas other staff members are allowed to use the meeting room for other purposes such as lunch or informal gatherings.

    • A staff member is given a lower rating in performance review because she has taken lactation breaks to express milk.

    • A student who starts breastfeeding in an open area on campus is asked to leave the area by a staff member or a contractor’s worker responsible for managing that area.

  2. Indirect discrimination

    Indirect discrimination means applying a requirement or condition to all employees or students, irrespective of whether they are breastfeeding women or not. However, it adversely affects breastfeeding women because it is less likely for some of them to be able to comply with the requirement or condition. In addition, the requirement or condition is not justifiable.  For example, if a strict work arrangement of consecutive hours without breaks is introduced for all staff in a department, but it adversely affects breastfeeding staff who need lactation breaks, this may be indirect discrimination unless the requirement could be justified. 

What is Breastfeeding Harassment?

  1. Person-to-person harassment

    Breastfeeding harassment refers to any unwelcome conduct, on the ground that a woman is breastfeeding, where a reasonable person, having regard to all the circumstances, would have anticipated that the woman would be offended, humiliated or intimidated. Examples include offensive jokes/gestures or insulting remarks made to a breastfeeding woman.

  2. Hostile or intimidating environment

    Another form of breastfeeding harassment occurs when a person, alone or together with other persons, on the ground that a woman is breastfeeding, engages in conduct that creates a hostile or intimidating environment for her. The behaviour need not be directly or consciously targeted at an individual. Examples include circulation of offensive comments about breastfeeding at the workplace, and display of pictures with derogatory images about breastfeeding in student residence.

Good Practices to Support Breastfeeding

  • While there is no statutory obligation to provide specific facilities for breastfeeding for staff and students, the University has set up breastfeeding facilities on different campuses. Please visit the CEDARS website for details.

  • A breastfeeding woman is however not obligated to use breastfeeding facilities. Departments/Units are encouraged to provide appropriate space as far as practicable for breastfeeding staff to express milk, for example, by allowing them to use a meeting or multi-purpose room, or setting up a screen or curtain in a secluded corner of a room, with appropriate signage for breastfeeding. According to the Employer’s Guide to Establishing Breastfeeding Friendly Workplace published by the Department of Health, storing expressed milk in a refrigerator or a cool box is generally safe. The expressed milk can be put in a box placed inside the pantry refrigerator. A separate refrigerator is not needed.

  • For sanitary reasons, Departments/Units should not ask breastfeeding staff or students to use toilets for breastfeeding purposes.

  • The SDO does not prescribe the number of lactation breaks. The Department of Health recommends two 30-minute lactation breaks (an hour in total) for an eight-hour working day. Proof of breastfeeding status is not required for allowing lactation breaks. Lactation breaks should be counted as working hours, and pay should not be deducted for those breaks. Breastfeeding staff members are also not expected to make up for the time used for lactation breaks.

  • Departments/Units should make arrangements flexibly to accommodate breastfeeding staff members’ needs for continued breastfeeding. For example, according to the Department of Health, most breastfeeding mothers may need one lactation break a day after one year.

  • Heads of Departments/Units should carefully consider breastfeeding staff members’ requests for flexible working arrangements during the period of breastfeeding. Apart from lactation breaks, there may be requests for flexi-hours, switching from full-time to part-time work, or a temporary alternative role if the inherent nature of a staff member’s job involves possible health risks to her health and her baby. Advice may be sought from the Human Resource Section.


Breastfeeding Facilities

    • Room 106, 1/F, Chong Yuet Ming Amenities Centre
      Tel: 2859 8006

    • Room 5.27, 5/F, The Jockey Club Tower, Centennial Campus
      Tel: 3917 8123

    • Room AG09, G/F, William MW Mong Block, LKS Faculty of Medicine Building
      Tel: 3917 9300

Equal Opportunity Advisors (EOAs)

EOAs serve as the first contact point in the Department/Unit/Hall/College to assist students, staff and other workplace participants, and advise on equal opportunity-related matters. Find your EOA from the Equal Opportunity Unit's webpage.

HKU Equal Opportunity Unit (EOU)

Tel: 3917 1768
E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
HKU Procedures for Handling Discrimination/Harassment Complaints
Online form for seeking advice/assistance or lodging a complaint

Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) of Hong Kong

General Enquiries: 2511 8211


Further Information

Equality for Breastfeeding Women – Guidance for the Employment and Related Sectors”, EOC

Leaflet on Breastfeeding Discrimination in the Workplace”, EOC

Equality for Breastfeeding Women – Guidance relating to the Provision of Goods, Facilities and Services, Education, Disposal or Management of Premises, Clubs, and the Government”, EOC

Leaflet on Breastfeeding Discrimination in the Provision of Goods, Facilities and Services and in Other Sectors”, EOC

Employers’ Guide to Establishing Breastfeeding Friendly Workplace”, Department of Health

An Employee’s Guide to Combining Breastfeeding with Work”, Department of Health

What is a Breastfeeding Friendly Workplace?”, Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative Hong Kong Association

June 2021