“I recently gave birth to a baby boy. I want to breastfeed my son, but being back at work is making it very difficult for me to breastfeed as our breaks are quite short. May I ask my employer for more time during the day to breastfeed, or is that not allowed?”
Fortunately our Legislature has recognised the importance of providing for the accommodation of breastfeeding mothers and has promulgated a Code of Good Practice on the Protection of Employees during Pregnancy and after the Birth of a Child (“Code”). This Code provides guidelines for the protection of the health of women against potential hazards in their work environment during pregnancy, after the birth of a child and while breastfeeding and also makes it pertinent that discrimination against pregnant women is not allowed.
The Code provides guidelines to employers to accommodate breastfeeding employees and specifically provides that an employer must at a minimum accommodate breastfeeding employees by providing breaks of 30 minutes twice per day for breastfeeding or expressing milk, for the first six months of the child’s life. This will be in addition to for example the official lunchbreak of the employee.
It must however be understood, that the norms established by the Code are general and serve as guidelines for employers. These norms may not however be appropriate for all workplaces. A departure from the Code may therefore be justified in certain circumstances by an employer.
I would advise that you discuss your rights with your employer and refer your employer to a copy of the Code which can be downloaded from the Department of Labour’s website at www.labour.gov.za