Returning to work after a period of maternity leave can be overwhelming and stressful for lots of mothers, and if you have chosen to breastfeed then you have the added strain of managing your pumping schedule around a busy working day.
To mark World Breastfeeding Week 2018, we take a look at your entitlements around ‘lactation breaks’ and the facilities your employer needs to have in place to ease your return.
In Ireland, entitlement to Lactation or Breastfeeding breaks for working mothers, is given up to 26 weeks after delivery date. Breastfeeding employees are entitled to 60 minutes time off or a reduction in work hours in an eight hour working day, without loss of pay, for up to 26 weeks after birth.
Unfortunately, mothers returning to work after this time period do not have a legal entitlement to breastfeeding breaks.
The exception is the Civil Service as civil service unions successfully negotiated an entitlement to lactation breaks for female employees up until their child’s 2nd birthday. This is the only sector of the workforce where this exists.
Unfortunately, until the legislation changes, women will be left to argue their case individually with employers.
Despite a proposal to extend the entitlement to lactation breaks to all workplaces until an infant’s first birthday, the current entitlement of 26 weeks can be tricky for many women who have chosen to breastfeed past that point.
If you have returned to work within the 26 week period, the type of workplace arrangements and facilities provided can include some or all of the points below. If you are returning after that period, your company isn’t compelled to provide these services. Many mothers returning to work have negotiated arrangements with their managers which have supported them to continue breastfeeding. Unfortunately, until the legislation changes, women will be left to argue their case individually with employers.
Policy & Support
- A written policy to support all staff to continue breastfeeding after returning from maternity leave.
- Employer allows creative use of annual leave days, time owing and parental leave days to support mothers.
- Staff member’s duties are adjusted to reflect the time on lactation break.
- Assistance with childcare is provided e.g. help with locating childcare places, on site crèche, childcare allowance.
- If requested by individual employees, the child carer is facilitated to bring the baby to work for breastfeeding e.g. safe place to feed the baby, insured to be on the premises.
Information for Employees
- Information is displayed and distributed where appropriate, to inform employees who are pregnant or considering pregnancy, of the breastfeeding policy and supports in the workplace.
- All staff are clearly informed of the organisation’s policy supporting breastfeeding.
- All staff are aware of the importance of supporting other staff members who are breastfeeding.
- All staff receive specific information about the value of continued breastfeeding, the workplace facilities and the supports when going on maternity leave.
Facilities for Breastfeeding
- A warm, hygienic and private area is provided for breastfeeding employees that is safely accessible at all times.
- Facilities for washing hands and equipment are in or convenient to the area.
- An electric outlet is available in the room and a table or worktop.
- Access to a refrigerator for the storage of expressed milk.
- A notice board / resource file for breastfeeding information is provided in the room.
Time for Breastfeeding
- Breastfeeding mothers are offered flexible work options or job-sharing.
- Additional unpaid leave is facilitated for staff members who request it.
- Lactation breaks, in addition to lunch and tea breaks are provided, of at least 60 minutes per day (8 hours) worked or by a reduction in working hours; pro rata for longer or shorter working day. These breaks are provided up to at least the requirement of the legislation.
- Staff are facilitated to take lactation breaks for expressing milk or breastfeeding their child. If their work area is far from a place to express, additional time is provided.
- Lactation breaks can be added to routine breaks such as lunchtime, if the mother wishes.
- Support for breastfeeding such as flexible work/ break time continues to be facilitated after the time required by the legislation.
The information above was supplied by BreastFeeding.ie, an initiative of the Health Service Executive of Ireland.