A BREASTFEEDING teacher was forced to express milk and eat her lunch in the school toilet or car park, an employment tribunal has heard.

Tara Mellor won a claim for harassment related to sex against The MFG Academies Trust, which runs three schools - a primary and two secondaries - in the Mirfield area.

The successful claim relates to Ms Mellor's time at Mirfield Free Grammar School as a teacher of Citizenship.

But her claims of indirect and direct sex discrimination were rejected and thrown out.

The tribunal, which took place on across five days (January 12, 13, 28 and February 1 this year), heard that Ms Mellor made at least six requests between March 2020 and December that year for a room at the school to allow her to express milk for her newborn child.

A suitable room was never made available for Ms Mellor and time was not set aside for her to do this, the tribunal heard.

Ms Mellor informed the school she was pregnant in September 2019 and her child was born in April 2020.

The Citizenship teacher had sent an email to the Chair of Governors and the Executive Principal for the Trust, Lorraine Barker, on March 16, 2020 while she was still at work.

Ms Mellor asked to be reduced down from full-time to working three days a week, when she returned from maternity in September, 2020.

This was the first occasion that Ms Mellor requested that a room be made available for her to express on a regular basis, when she returned.

She said: "As well as the part time request, I will require access to a room to enable me to express regularly”.

Between September 30, 2020 and November 6, 2020 – when Ms Mellor stopped going into work and started shielding – the teacher would have worked 17 days, as she was part-time on her return.

It was found that on all of these days, Ms Mellor was forced to either express in the school’s toilets or her car while eating her lunch, or was unable to express during the break.

Ms Mellor said she used the toilet more often than her car because she either did not have it at school, or it was too cold.

She said she was also concerned about students seeing her expressing in the car.

Ms Mellor’s lunchbreak was 25 minutes and it took the teacher around 20 minutes to express and the tribunal found this meant realistically she had no choice but to eat her lunch at the same time.

Ms Mellor said: “I found it unhygienic and disgusting to have to express in the toilets.

“Further, as I wasn’t allocated any time to express, I had to do it at lunch time and eat my lunch at the same time.

“I found it disgusting to have to eat my lunch in toilets, which were often dirty”.

Alison Haldenby, Director of HR at the school, who provided a witness statement and gave evidence at the tribunal, expressed horror that Ms Mellor had had to sit on a toilet floor to express milk and eat her lunch.

The Trust argued she “would have raised a grievance” with the company if she had had a “real issue with a place to express”.

But the tribunal found that she had on multiple occasions, whether over email, in conversations, or in meetings.

Employment Judge Richard Miller said: “We have found that the claimant did make the respondent aware that she needed suitable facilities to express milk on a number of occasions.”

He added: “Having regard to the claimant’s repeated requests for a room, her identification of the problem, and the absence of an explanation for the failure to provide a room, we conclude that the respondent, as of September 2020, did have a practice of not providing suitable facilities for women to express milk.

“This was not a one-off event, the respondent consistently failed to provide a room, or failed to agree to provide a room, from July 2020 through to December 2020.”

The tribunal concluded that Ms Mellor felt forced to express in unsuitable conditions, due to arrangements not being made.

Judge Miller said: “As the claimant reasonably and genuinely felt compelled to act in a way that she did not want to, she was we find forced to do so.

“We conclude, therefore, that the respondent did subject the claimant to unwanted conduct by forcing her to express milk in the toilet and/or car park.”

It was found that overall, this created a “degrading or humiliating environment” for Ms Mellor.

Judge Miller said: “We are aware of the seriousness of these words, but in our view a woman who has recently given birth should not be subjected to these circumstances solely because she has done so.”

A remedy hearing will be held to decide how much compensation Ms Mellor is paid.