National Breastfeeding Week 2019 - know your rights

1 Oct 2019

Mother

To mark National Breastfeeding Week 2019, ICTU and BFLGI are issuing this statement to remind all workers of their rights relevant to infant feeding and to seek better legal provision for such rights: Currently, under Irish law, women who are breastfeeding are entitled to time off or a reduction in working hours to breastfeed their baby, up until the child is 26 weeks of age. This time can be used in several different ways:

    • You can breastfeed during these breaks if your child is being cared for nearby
    • Your childminder can bring your baby to the workplace at your break times
    • You can express and store breast milk during these breaks if your employer provides a suitable room for this
    • If there are no facilities for breastfeeding or expressing at work, you can reduce your working hours by one hour each day (per eight-hour working day) without loss of pay (e.g. by starting an hour later or leaving an hour earlier)

Provision of these breaks until the child is 26 weeks old is the nationally mandated minimum. The exception is the Civil Service and education sector where trade unions successfully negotiated an entitlement to lactation breaks for female employees up until their child's 2nd birthday, to bring it into line with Department of Health’s best evidence-based recommendations for breastfeeding. These are the only sectors of the workforce where this exists.

David Joyce Equality and Development Officer ICTU said: “We have continually made the case for an extension of the period and believe that the upcoming paid parental leave scheme and the transposition process for the EU Work-Life Balance Directive provide an opportunity to extend the entitlement to lactation breaks until at least the infant's second birthday”. He said, This is provided for in an Action of the National Strategy for Women and Girls: Action 2.18 “Extend provision for breastfeeding breaks under employment legislation”

Malvina Walsh, Chair of Baby Feeding Law Group Ireland, saidIn the meantime, we encourage individual Unions to negotiate for extended breastfeeding breaks beyond the 26 weeks with employers and thus, encourage, protect, promote, and support continued breastfeeding in Ireland. In addition to the rights of women, under the Maternity Protection (Time off for Ante–Natal Classes) Regulations 2004, expectant fathers have a once-off right to paid time off work to attend the last 2 antenatal classes prior to the birth”.She said “This entitlement does not extend to every pregnancy, while the woman is in employment it is only a once-off right. We encourage unions to make this right better known to workers and encourage men to avail of this time to attend an antenatal class related to infant feeding, where possible. We also believe that it should apply to all pregnancies”.