Minister Power welcomes paid time off for breastfeeding in the workplace
Séan Power T.D., Minister for State with responsibility for Health Promotion, has called on employers and workers to support Irish women who continue to breastfeed on returning to the paid workforce after maternity leave.
His comments were made to coincide with the coming into effect of the entitlement to breastfeeding breaks in the workplace under the new Maternity Protection (Amendment) Act 2004.
Breastfeeding mothers will be entitled, under the legislation, to paid time off for the purposes of breastfeeding or expressing breast milk in the workplace, where facilities are provided by the employer, or a reduction in working hours (on full pay) to facilitate breastfeeding where facilities are not provided. The employer will be required to provide facilities where this does not give rise to more than a nominal cost.
The Minister added, “This is a very practical measure to support breastfeeding mothers in paid employment. There were 61,517 births in this country last year and just over 45% were breastfeeding on discharge from maternity hospitals. It is important that all mothers are supported in breastfeeding. Enabling mothers who return to paid work to continue to breastfeed will bring many health benefits to children and to mothers. Employers will also benefit, as research shows that women who continue to breastfeed after returning to work are three times less likely to be absent from work in order to care for their sick child, as breastfed children are healthier”.
Ms. Maureen Fallon, National Breastfeeding Coordinator at the Department of Health and Children said, “We want women to feel confident and supported in their decision to continue breastfeeding after their return to the paid workforce. The new legislation will help breastfeeding mothers, as it allows them time during the working day to breastfeed their baby or to express milk,” she explained.
48% of men and 74% of women in the workforce agree that women should be encouraged to breastfeed their babies for as long as possible, according to a recent Lansdowne Market Research survey into workers’ attitudes to breastfeeding, undertaken prior to the enactment of the Maternity Protection (Amendment) Act 2004.
In addition 48% of men and 80% of women would support a female colleague in continuing to breastfeed after returning to the workplace.
The new Maternity Protection (Amendment) Act is being strongly supported by all health professional groups, voluntary breastfeeding groups such as La Leche League of Ireland and Cuidiú-Irish Childbirth Trust.