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Wednesday, March 27, 2013

More on the Legal Rights of Breastfeeding and Working Women

I've previously written a post about the legal rights of breastfeeding mothers and prepared a slideshow.  I continue to receive emails about how working and breastfeeding mothers are not allowed to express milk at work or that their performance evaluation ratings are affected by lactation breaks.  Protecting the rights of breastfeeding and working women merits another post.  This time, I have included more resources, including those for night workers and a link to the guidelines for setting up a lactation room/policy from the DOLE.

In the Food and Nutrition Research Institute’s Nutritional Status of Filipino Children and other Population Groups: 2011 Survey, one of the top reasons why mothers stop breastfeeding is because they work outside the home. Often, most moms are misinformed or don’t know that there is a law which will help them to continue to breastfeed their babies, even if they go back to work.

Under Republic Act No. 10028 or the Expanded Breastfeeding Promotion Act of 2009, working and breastfeeding moms are entitled to paid lactation periods. Lactation periods are break intervals (on top of the regular time off for meals) to allow the employees to breastfeed or express milk.

The law further states that the intervals should not be less than a total of forty (40) minutes for every eight (8) hour working period. In the Implementing Rules and Regulations, the Department of Health further specifies that the duration and frequency of breaks may be agreed upon by the employees and employers with the minimum being 40 minutes. The recommended period is 2-3 milk expressions lasting 15-30 minutes each within a work day.
our lactation room. photo by Jason Raval
Secondly, aside from providing paid lactation periods, Republic Act No. 10028 also provides for the establishment of lactation stations, including minimum requirements plus a specific statement that this lactation station must NOT be located inside the toilet. It must also be equipped with facilities such as a sink for hand washing, electrical outlets, small table, comfortable seats, which will allow women to express their milk or breastfeed their child.

It is interesting to note that not a lot of women are aware that “lactation periods” are now part of labor standards. Under the Department of Labor and Employment’s Department Order No. 115-A, series of 2012, complying with the requirements under RA10028 is one of the requirements for the issuance of a Tripartite Certificate of Compliance with Labor Standards.

Meanwhile, if you are a night worker (e.g. call center agent with night shift), DOLE’s Department Order No. 119-12, series of 2012 states that one of the mandatory facilities that your employer must provide is a lactation station.

The Implementing Rules and Regulations further require the establishment of a workplace policy. Why is this important? Sometimes, employers provide a space for expressing milk but do not orient its employees. Hence, some moms who use the lactation rooms are chided by their colleagues (or even their bosses) because of these regular breaks. The establishment of a policy ensures the protection of the rights of the breastfeeding mothers.

As early as 2010, DOLE’s Bureau of Workers with Special Concerns issued guidelines for setting up a workplace lactation station. The guidelines also include a draft workplace lactation policy to help employers get started. You can access the guidelines here.

It must be emphasized that as a breastfeeding employee, it is up to you to take the first step if your company does not have this facility. You need to identify the correct department to approach. It is usually the Human Resource Department who handles company policies and would be the best place to start. Print out the law, implementing rules and regulations and corresponding DOLE Department Orders.

Most companies are now concerned with the health and wellness of their employees and even include talks on various topics. You can ask your employer to include a talk on breastfeeding to increase awareness among the employees. It would also help if you print out the DOLE guidelines as it already includes a list of facilities that must be included.

In the government institution where I work in, there are 2 lactation rooms and a workplace lactation policy that is pending approval. This involved constant proposals, meetings and consultations. The institutionalization of these facilities would not have been possible if not for the initiative of affected employees and support from management.

It bears emphasis that despite the existence of these laws, nothing will happen if no employee steps up and takes the initiative to ask for a lactation room and the establishment of a lactation policy in her workplace. Hence, armed with information, it is up to YOU, the employee, to make it happen.

Sometimes, the employer just doesn't know about the existence of the law and most of them are receptive especially since the grant of this benefit includes tax benefits. So, approach your Human Resource Department and ask for your right to a lactation room and policy TODAY.

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