One decision facing new mothers is whether to breastfeed or bottle-feed their newborn baby. New Zealand employment law stipulates that women who choose to breastfeed can return to work and continue to either breastfeed or express milk during working hours. The Employment Relations Act 2000 states that employers must provide appropriate facilities for any employees who choose to breastfeed at work, and that adequate breaks must be provided.
Breastfeeding breaks may be paid or unpaid, depending on the specific circumstances and the employment agreement.
The Code of Employment Practice on Infant Feeding outlines employer obligations in more detail. While employers are obligated to give employees access to breastfeeding facilities in the workplace, these facilities do not have to be complicated or costly for the business. In most cases, a private space with comfortable seating is adequate. If the employee is expressing milk, she may also need access to a power point, fridge and wash basin.
Arrangements for breastfeeding breaks and facilities can be negotiated between the employer and employee. There is no ‘formal’ arrangement that needs to be followed, but the arrangement must be reasonable and practical for both parties.
Many employees balance work and family responsibilities and may choose to return to work soon after the birth of a child. Businesses who adapt to these conditions and provide flexible support for breastfeeding employees can benefit in a number of ways. These may include:
Due to the complex nature of some workplaces, employers and employees should discuss their respective needs in person when negotiating breastfeeding at work. These talks should happen as early as possible so there is enough time to negotiate and implement changes into the workplace.
Toilets are not a suitable option for breastfeeding, as they are unsanitary and inappropriate in some cultures.
The minimum requirements for a breastfeeding space include:
For employees who are expressing breast milk, they will need additional facilities on top of the above-mentioned requirements, such as:
Open communication is the key to reaching practical solutions that satisfy the needs of both parties. If a mutual agreement cannot be reached, both parties can approach the Employment Mediation Service to help resolve the situation.
With breastfeeding in the workplace becoming more common, employers and employees need to be informed on their rights and responsibilities to reach the most practical solutions.
A breastfeeding policy can reduce the chance of confusion or misunderstandings which can cause problems in the workplace. This policy may help employees feel more comfortable talking about their needs and allow employers to set necessary boundaries.
A breastfeeding at work policy should include:
For advice on how to manage breastfeeding in the workplace, or assistance creating a policy, contact Employsure on 0800 675 700.