Your employees have rights with regards to looking after their newborn at your business. There are also specific laws you have to respect for new mothers. And in this guide, we take a look at the rules relating to breastfeeding and how you can follow them.
Laws on breastfeeding in the workplaceIn Ireland, the Maternity Protection (Amendment) Act 2004 covers breastfeeding rules at work. In section nine of the Act, it explains that women in your business can take time off work across every working day to breastfeed. That law applies to any employee who has a baby under six months of age. However, bear in mind that you’re not legally obliged to provide facilities for your staff to breastfeed their baby if the provision of such facilities would give rise to more than nominal costs. But you can offer support them by offering them breastfeeding facilities at work. For example, you can adapt a suitable room where the employee can look after their baby in private. You can assist them further by providing flexible working hours—or reduce their daily time at your business to assist their child. You’ll do this without reducing their monthly wage. You can allow members of your staff one hour (you have to pay them) away from their role. They can break this down into separate sessions (such as two 30 minutes) as part of their breastfeeding break.
Your breastfeeding in the workplace policyYou can establish a set of procedures for staff members to refer to. You can include these in your company handbook and employment contracts, which will explain your business’ approach. Offering your support for breastfeeding in the workplace is good business practice. It’s a sign of support for your staff members. However, remember that if they want to breastfeed in your work environment then they have to notify you within a reasonable amount of time. They’ll have to do that in writing at least four weeks before they return to work. You can summarise these legal requirements in your workplace policies so staff are aware of what’s required of them should they be expecting a baby.
Health & safety requirements for breastfeeding working mothersNew mothers who return to the workplace also add some extra responsibilities for employers from a health & safety perspective. A risk assessment should be carried out to identify any workplace hazards that may affect a breastfeeding employee. If you are unable to remove a workplace risk to the employee’s health while they are breastfeeding or to assign alternative ‘risk-free’ duties, the employee may qualify for health & safety benefit. If workplace hazards prevent the employee from working, you will be required to pay the employee’s normal wage for the first 21 days of health & safety leave. The Department of Employment and Social Protection will pay the remainder of health & safety benefit while the employee is on health & safety leave.
Other options for your staffYou can also set provisions for any employees who feel uncomfortable breastfeeding at work. Let them know that they can:
- Go to the hospital—or their home.
- Visit a health centre.
- Attend breastfeeding support groups.
- Speak to their doctor for advice.