Breastfeeding Awareness Week – Employers urged to provide suitable support

Published August 03, 2021 -
Breastfeeding Awareness

As World Breastfeeding Week kicks off, employers are encouraged to maintain an open conversation with employees who are breastfeeding and help provide them with suitable provisions or facilities.

Employers are likely to have at some stage an employee who is breastfeeding or expressing milk at work. The success of an employee’s return to the workplace after giving birth can often directly relate to how they are managed over the initial period, and as such, employers must provide breastfeeding employees with suitable support.

Employsure, Australia’s largest workplace relations advisor, along with HR experts Peninsula Group, recently conducted a survey of 49,000 employers across Australia, Canada, Ireland and the UK, to study attitudes towards breastfeeding in the workplace and see how employers were supporting their staff.

“What the survey found was that employers are mostly happy with breastfeeding in the workplace, and most feel they are currently providing enough measures to support employees,” said Employsure employment relations specialist Emma Panier.

“In Australia specifically, while 94% of businesses consider themselves an inclusive workplace, just 21% have a designated place for employees to breastfeed, and only 16% are looking to introduce further measures to support breastfeeding employees.

“The need to provide these employees with resting facilities that allow them to lie down clearly shows that toilets, desk spaces or cars are inadequate. Instead, employees must, as far as reasonably practicable, be provided with a private, secure and hygienic area where expressing milk can take place.”

Employsure is calling on employers who don’t already have correct provisions in place to have initial discussions with employees returning from maternity leave, in a similar fashion to an employee who may have been on sick leave, to better understand the employee’s needs and concerns.

If an employer does not have a designated space available for breastfeeding employees, areas such as a lockable office that can be made private through covering windows or doors may be suitable. Having that conversation with the employee will help cover all bases.

Regarding milk storage, it may be the case the employee will not feel comfortable using a communal fridge. Possible alternatives can include providing a separate fridge area, or allocating a space within the communal fridge using a sealable container which maintains a hygienic storage space.

“Ultimately, employers should make their policy clear, and if changes have to be made to suit the employee then they should be considered. The initial set of procedures and the business’ approach should be included in a company handbook,” continued Ms Panier.

“Offering the correct support is good business practice and it is a sign of support for staff. Employers cannot treat women less favourably because they are breastfeeding. Employees should however, notify of any intention to breastfeed in the workplace in advance. Employers can summarise the legal requirements in their workplace policies so staff are aware of what’s required of them should they be expecting a baby.”



Further enquiries:

Matthew Bridges

[email protected]

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