Building a Workplace to Support Breastfeeding Women
New research by global workplace supplier Regus has revealed that a staggering 77 per cent of employees would choose one job over another if it enabled them to access opportunities for flexible work.
Is your company doing all it can to support women who return to work while breastfeeding?
Companies which support women who want to breastfeed in the workplace benefit from a faster return to work rate, improved staff retention, reduced sick leave and absenteeism due in part to the health benefits associated with breastfeeding and enhanced employee morale and commitment.
In addition, the Federal Sex Discrimination Act 1984 makes it illegal for employers or potential employers to discriminate against women who are breastfeeding.
The Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Agency (EOWA) advises companies to conduct an analysis of the workplace to ensure they are doing all they can to assist breastfeeding employees by asking questions such as:
- Can our employees continue to breastfeed after they have returned to work?
- Does our workplace provide a private and hygienic place for employees to express milk?
- Are women confident they will not be treated less favourably as a result of breastfeeding?
- Would your oganisation’s policies on breastfeeding withstand the rigour of review by an independent third party?
- Are women still with the organisation six months after returning from parental leave? How about 12 months?
There are components of a corporate lactation program that are simple and very inexpensive to implement:
- Create an environment that respects and supports breastfeeding. Develop a written policy that informs all employees of your support of breastfeeding. Outline the steps you have taken to respect employees. right to breastfeed while continuing to pursue the mission of your company or organisation. Make the policy part of your company’s written policies on maternity/paternity benefits and make it available to all employees.
- Provide breaks for women to nurse or express breast milk, allowing her to adjust the beginning/ending time of work if necessary. Allowing flexible hours, part-time work or job sharing can benefit all employees, including nursing mothers.
- Provide a private area that is quiet, clean and comfortable. There should be a sink nearby for hand washing and cleaning the breast pump. A small refrigerator is ideal, but a place to keep a small ice chest or thermos is sufficient.
A comprehensive lactation program requires an additional investment of time and money, yet many employers have found it worthwhile to establish:
- Breastfeeding education and support, both before and after the birth. An employee assistance program, a single interested employee, or a work group might design a program to include written educational materials, on-site classes or support groups, or the services of a lactation professional.
- A “pump room” with hospital-grade breast pumps. (An effective pump can significantly decrease the time needed for pumping.)
- On-site or near-site childcare.
This Better Workplace Bulletin was First Published in June 2012