© UNICEF HK/2015/Peterpenn
Breastfeeding Friendly Workplace
Breastfeeding Friendly Workplace is where an organization or enterprise provides an appropriate and friendly environment for their breastfeeding employees to express breast milk at workplace so that they can continue breastfeeding for their babies.
Join ‘Say Yes to Breastfeeding’ campaign now if have worked or plans to provide a friendly environment to your breastfeeding colleagues.
Why should employers support breastfeeding?
Providing lactation support is a great CSR initiative to show your company respects and supports children’s rights and well-being.
UNICEF sees providing decent working conditions that also support workers, both women and men, in their roles as parents or caregivers, for example providing support for pregnant and breastfeeding women beyond legal compliance is as one key action that business can take to maximize the positive impacts on children.
It is beneficial to companies
The Business Case for Breastfeeding published in 2008 by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration, Maternal and Child Health Bureau founds out supporting breastfeeding employees has huge return of investment, including:
Lower medical costs and health insurance claims
For breastfeeding employees and their infants (up to three times less for breastfeeding employees);
Reduce turnover rates
86-92 per cent of breastfeeding employees returning to work after childbirth when a lactation support programme is provided compared to the national average of 59 per cent
Lower absenteeism rates
up to half the number of 1 day absences
Raise employee morale and loyalty to the company
Returning of work was found as one main factor contributed to Hong Kong mothers’ early cessation of breastfeeding.
A prospective study on the breastfeeding and weaning practices among Hong Kong mothers points out the main reason for mothers to stop breastfeeding in the first three months after delivery is “returning to workplace”. Another study about initiating and sustaining breastfeeding in Hong Kong: contextual influences on new mothers’ experiences comment that it is difficult to express breast milk in workplace even if they want to continue breastfeeding their children.
How can I support?
You can begin with 3 easy steps!
(* Below supportive measures are strongly encouraged but not pre-requisite to join the campaign)
1. Provide TIME
- allow lactation breaks
In accordance with the spirit of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention, a lactation break shall be included in working hours and remunerated accordingly.
The following are some good measures for your consideration:
- Allow two 30-minute lactation breaks or one hour in total for an 8-hour working day;
- Lactation breaks are recommended to be counted as “paid”
- Employees are not expected to replenish for the time used for milk expression; and
- Proof of breastfeeding status is not required for providing lactation breaks.
Want to do more?
Longer lactation break, longer period
Some breastfeeding mothers may need more breaks or longer breaks to express breast milk. You may consider asking them to use lunchtime, the time before or after working hours.
For employee who would like to sustain breastfeeding for more than a year, you may arrange flexibly, say one lactation break a day as children aged 1 year old or above are already having a variety of food and the daily milk intake and the frequency of breastfeeding or breast milk expressions will reduce accordingly.
Longer maternity leave can support mothers to provide exclusive breastfeeding. If leave is shorter, some mothers may need means to extend their leave period so that they can be with their babies, combining fully paid, unpaid or some other form of leave.
You may consider to arrange additional leave for mothers of premature or other vulnerable infants who may need extra time for special care, and to express and provide life-saving human milk for their babies.
Flexible working hours or job sharing
A daily reduction of hours of work can support mothers to breastfeed her child. Flexible work hours to breastfeed or to express breast milk such as part-time work schedules, longer lunch and other breaks, job sharing or any such alternatives can also provide mothers with better support.
2. Provide SPACE
a private area with facilities for milk expression and refrigerating breast milk
You can create a lactation room, or simply deploy existing resources flexibly to provide employees a space for expressing breast milk with privacy – as long as
The space is private and equipped with
- A chair with back rest for breastfeeding mothers to sit down when expressing breast milk;
- A small table for placing items needed during breast milk expression
- A power socket; and
- Optional – other facilities such as liquid soap, running water and sinks as well as lockers can be considered.
Below are some examples of the space you can provide:
- A lactation room for employees;
- Consider reserving two time slots in the use of existing rooms such as conference rooms, multi-function rooms or changing room temporarily for milk expression;
- Set up a screen or curtain in a secluded corner for expressing breast milk and display a signage such as “mummy’s break, please wait”; or
- Allow employees to visit nearby community baby care facilities during lactation breaks.
Refrigeration facilities for keeping breast milk
Breast milk is characterised by its antibacterial properties. Storing in a refrigerator or a cool box is generally safe. Simply put the expressed milk in a box placed inside the pantry refrigerator will do. A separate refrigerator is welcomed but not a must.
3. Provide SUPPORT
a friendly environment so mothers can feel welcome and be supported to express milk
It is important to encourage all employees to support by not discriminating breastfeeding employees. Frequent communication between management staff, breastfeeding employees and coworkers, making known the temporary nature of the measures and the long-term benefits for multiple parties will all facilitate a successful implementation.
You may consider:
- Learn more about local maternity laws and benefits of maternity provisions. Explore what the supportive measures provided at workplace or sector-wide, which may be better than local laws and practices.
- Learn more about women’s health during pregnancy and lactation in order to be better able to combine employment with breastfeeding and child care needs.
- Discuss with employee before their maternity leave
- Give mothers job security and non-discrimination on the grounds of maternity and breastfeeding.
- Train all employees in terms of positive attitudes towards pregnancy, motherhood and breastfeeding in public
- Develop a written policy to enhance communication among management and staff, and align practices in workplace. You may refer to the sample policy.
Hong Kong employers also share the successful stories
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