Breastfeeding in the workplace is a contentious issue. Public breastfeeding has both lovers and haters, so there’s much to be explored in the way of breastfeeding in the workplace. Legally, the Basic Conditions of Employment Act (BCEA) states that breastfeeding and expressing moms be given two 30-minute breaks every day for the first six months of their child’s life, so as an employer you need to make these moms feel accommodated.
As business owners, it is your duty to encourage and support breastfeeding moms. It is your responsibility to create a culture where breastfeeding moms are celebrated and not harassed or shunned. It’s bizarre for me that many business owners / managers have different expectations for themselves / their wives to that of their employees, so my encouragement is to have congruence in your values.
In HR we found that the benefits of creating an inclusive environment for breastfeeding moms increases employee satisfaction, lower absenteeism, improved productivity, and of course you, and your colleagues, benefit from the skills of the employee returning sooner. I have been asked to shed some light on how businesses can accommodate breastfeeding moms.
1. Provide leniency in allowing your employee to bring their baby to work for the first 6 months. New born babies sleep a lot, so should not be too much of a disruption. Babies can sit in their car seats under a desk close to their mom, or be carried in a sling. This option is obviously only appropriate for certain job types and environments.
2. Allow these moms to take additional breaks. If you are unable to allow extra breaks then consider extending normal breaks, such as a mid-morning coffee break or lunch breaks to minimise any disruption to the business.
3. Give them a private space. Whether your employee is breastfeeding or expressing milk, they need a private and clean space in which to do it. This could be an unoccupied office or an area used for meetings that can be discreetly screened. If, after careful consideration, you are physically unable to provide an appropriate space, you need to be open with your employee and discuss the issue to see if there is any alternative facility.
4. Provide space in the office fridge for expressed milk storage.
5. If the employee lives close to the office, allow the employee to go home for feeds. Alternatively, you could introduce flexi-time to allow the employee to work the hours around her breastfeeding duties.
How have you tried to create a positive, respectful tone in your business in terms of accommodating breastfeeding moms that we could share as best practice?