Sunday, March 23, 2008

Working and Breastfeeding

There was an interesting article in the Herald today, discussing a law change which will force employers to provide facilities and breaks for breastfeeding mothers.

Labour Minister Trevor Mallard said yesterday all employers would be required to provide breastfeeding breaks and set aside appropriate facilities, where reasonable and practicable.

This part concerns me - how easy is it going to be for a work place to say - oh no, sorry, not reasonable or practicable to have that set up here. I am a teacher when working, and I would almost guarantee that most, if not all, schools would argue that they cannot (a) find room for a woman to feed/express in relative private; or (b) cover breaks that fall outside the normal daily school breaks. Certainly I would expect there to be complaining around how unfair it is that breast feeding mothers do not have to do playground duty as they are expressing/feeding. Breaks would be unable to be lengthened to allow mothers to whip down the road to the child's care place as there are 30 children waiting for their teacher to return.

I have a friend who is a lawyer and is returning to work later this year, when their child is around 7 months old. They will be able to continue feeding if she chooses, due to the nature of the job. The daycare is nearby and she has the power to choose when she takes breaks and for how long, within reason, without any change to the law.

Isn't it somewhat ironic that a so called 'parent friendly' job like teaching will be unable to support the new law like other professions? And what could be a way to enable them to support breastfeeding continuation?

Don't get me wrong, I completely support any changes that make the workplace more mother/child friendly. I just feel that laws like this are somewhat naive in thinking that it will go beyond the people who already have better conditions than others.

Dr Judith Galtry points this out:
"The people this provision will help will be those who have clout in the workplace and whose employers don't want to lose them. People working in the biscuit factory or as night-shift cleaners are going to find it hard to get that right."

And not just the real blue collar workers either. If I can instantly see problems with teaching, a huge employer of women, there must be thousands more women in jobs that the law change will not make the blind bit of difference to, and as usual, the women that need support the most will be the ones least likely to have positive change.


Shelley_101 said...

I wonder what the alternative to the new legislation would be? Compulsion to provide breatfeeding breaks and space?

Couldn't teachers breastfeed in the classroom? I can only see a need to express in private, not breastfeed.

Undomestic Goddess said...

I personally would have nno trouble breastfeeding in the classroom, but there are plenty of parents who would!

i think the main problem is that the hours of teaching are so regimented that getting the baby to and from the school for actual feeding would be the most problematic part.