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Moves to give working mums better breastfeeding rights

Moves to give working mums better breastfeeding rights

Wednesday 13 February 2019

Moves to give working mums better breastfeeding rights


Working mums will be able to request "reasonable breaks" from work to breastfeed in facilities provided by their employers, if States Members agree.

The change is one of many to the Employment Law, which are being put forward by Social Security Minister Deputy Judy Martin in an attempt to make workplaces around the island more 'family friendly'.

If States Members vote in favour of the changes, there will be 52 weeks of parental leave for all parents, time off work to attend appointments for adoptive and surrogate parents and paid leave on health and safety grounds for pregnant and breastfeeding women.

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Pictured: Deputy Judy Martin, the Minister for Social Security.

Together, these form the second stage of improvements to giving families more employment rights. Last September, parental leave was extended to 26 weeks and paid maternity leave to six weeks, while paid parental leave and adoption leave were also introduced as well as time off for antenatal appointments for fathers and partners.

However, the Social Security Minister's latest set of proposed changes go even further, including giving new mothers the right to breaks to breastfeed or express breast milk, as well as ensuring employers have appropriate facilities for this to take place, and for the milk to be stored.

This would be on the basis of a temporary agreement with the employer, rather than a permanent change to the mother's terms and conditions of employment. Changes could include a longer lunch-break, combining lunch and tea breaks, an extra break, shorter working hours, or different working hours. If the mum returns to work within the first year of the child's birth, breastfeeding breaks will have to be paid at the normal rate. After the first year, the breaks would be unpaid.

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Pictured: Employers will have to provide facilities for breastfeeding mums, if they reasonably can do so.

It is estimated that, in the case of the Government, 20 employees each year might return to work after less than 52 weeks’ parental leave and seek to temporarily vary their terms of employment to breastfeed, a report explaining the law noted. Employees would likely request a one hour paid break each day at £21.53 per hour (£861/40 hours) for a three month period, working a five day week, incurring a cost of £27,989. 

The Minister acknowledged, however, that this may be more challenging for small workplaces, and therefore said the expectation will be for the employer to take "reasonable steps.” This means that, if cases on the matter were brought to the Employment and Discrimination Tribunal, they would have to consider the size of the business, the cost and resources available.

The draft law also aims to protect employees who are pregnant, breastfeeding, or who have given birth within six months, if they can't reasonably fulfil their usual duties within their working environments. If "significant risks" were found following assessment under the Health and Safety at Work Law, the employee would be entitled to paid leave.

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Pictured: Deputy Louise Doublet welcomed the proposed changes.

Breastfeeding champion Deputy Louise Doublet, who successfully changed discrimination legislation in 2015 to give protection to mothers breastfeeding in public, described the plans as "progressive and generous, but also entirely reasonable and can be implemented practically by even small businesses.”

She told Express the plans should help improve local breastfeeding rates, adding: "The benefits of continued breastfeeding to the health of babies and mothers are well documented.

"However there are also benefits to businesses - retaining talented staff can only be a good thing, and as breastfed babies are ill less often, this requires less time away from work by a parent needing to care for them. At the moment, I am hearing from mothers who tell me that they don't even begin breastfeeding at all (despite wanting to), as they believe it will be incompatible with returning to work. This is heartbreaking - all families should be supported to provide their child with breast milk if that is what they choose."

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Pictured: All new parents will be entitled to 52 weeks of parental leave.

Under the proposed law change, the separate rights to maternity parental and adoption leave would merge, allowing all new parents 52 weeks of parental leave, with six paid at the normal rate.This leave would be able to be taken in up to four blocks of no less than two weeks each, over a three-year period, to ensure that they can use the full period of leave to suit the needs of their family.

The law will also allow adoptive parents and intended parents in a surrogacy situation to attend an unlimited number of appointments relating to the adoption - 10 hours of which would be paid.

The proposed changes will now be debated in the Assembly in March, but Reform Jersey has already thrown its support behind them.

They have however vowed to "push for an extension to the Maternity Allowance".

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