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Employers’ Duties Towards Breast Feeding Mothers

Employers’ Duties Towards Breast Feeding Mothers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BY ISHI KALSI

The Health Act of 2017 requires all employers to ensure that they have lactation rooms in their workplaces and offices. These lactation rooms are meant to provide the necessary support to breastfeeding mothers for at least six months while they are under employment.

The Health Act defines the lactation rooms as stations which will have necessary equipment and facilities including handwashing equipment, fridges, electrical outlets for breast-pumps and a small table with comfortable seats. In a national policy recommended by the Ministry of Health, it is also recommended that a lactation station should also keep sterilised breast pumps, proper waste baskets and personal protective gear. However, these lactation stations cannot be located at the rest-rooms but have to be set up in a separate and private room conducive for mothers to either breastfeed or express milk.An employer is also supposed to provide regular breaks to breastfeeding mothers to go and breastfeed or express their milk. These breaks are in addition to regular breaks already given

The Act provides for the calculation of time for the breaks, including the time it takes an employee to get to and from the lactation station and it is counted as paid working hours provided that such interval is not more than a total of one hour for every eight hour working period. It therefore means that breastfeeding mothers are not subjected to any wage or salary deductions for the said breaks and neither can the said breaks constitute any deduction in annual leave. It should be noted that the mandatory three month maternity leave still applies in addition to the provision for the lactation stations for mothers to breastfeed for a minimum period of at least six months.

It has now become mandatory for the establishment of these lactation rooms with many reputable organizations being reprimanded by the Ministry of Health for lack of these facilities. In 2018, the Ministry of Health made it mandatory for every employer to have lactation stations. However, majority of employers are yet to comply with this law. Of great concern is probably that while some modern shopping malls have family rooms, this is not what a lactation station or room should be. Many public institutions lack basic facilities for mothers and children, including baby changing stations, let alone lactation stations.

 

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