The WBTi UK Report recommendations for Indicator 4 are for government action, including legislative change:
- Governments to legislate for reasonable breastfeeding breaks and suitable facilities for breastfeeding/expressing in workplaces and educational institutions.
- Governments to ensure that tribunal access is available to women from all income brackets.
- Government agencies to monitor provision for employees.
- Governments to raise the minimum rate of maternity pay and maternity allowance to the recommended minimum wage level.
Legislation is needed, not just guidance
There is existing good practice guidance for employers (ACAS’ Accommodating breastfeeding employees in the workplace and Guidance for Employers: Accommodating Breastfeeding int he Workplace from Maternity Action) but to achieve real societal change there needs to be legislation. However, this requires all employers to value breastfeeding and perceive it as a normal activity so that the law can be implemented willingly.
Legislation would create a level playing field for business, too.
I recently heard about Rose (not her real name). Rose is in her mid-twenties and breastfeeding her second baby. She found breastfeeding to be straightforward with both children. Rose planned to return to work when her second baby was 6 months old as the family needs two incomes to manage financially.
When her baby was 5 months old, Rose quickly found a highly suitable retail job, involving working some evenings and a Sunday shift. There would be no childcare costs as her husband is at home at those times.
However, induction for the job involve attending the store for the whole of one Friday. No information was given in advance about the timing of the lunch break so Rose could not arrange for her baby to be brought to her for a feed. She was very upset the evening before at the thought of being away from her baby for a whole day. Breastfeeding is a private matter for her and she felt too embarrassed to mention to her new employer that she is breastfeeding and also feared she might be seen as a difficult employee.
If employers expected that a mother with a young baby might be breastfeeding, and routinely checked whether she had any specific needs, mothers like Rose would be supported when they return to work, rather than facing additional stress and worry.
If you or someone you know needs advice on rights at work, including maternity pay and benefits, Maternity Action has information on its website and a telephone advice line:
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