Mind pregnant, nursing workers

The Breastfeeding Mothers Bill has been pending in Parliament since 2017.


Discrimination against expectant and nursing mothers dates back to pre-civilisation. All struggle with it. Many have lost their jobs while some organisations refuse to employ them.

These two situations in the life of a woman come with varying challenges, which have to be accommodated at the workplace. Medically, pregnancy brings about a range of hormonal imbalances—from weird appetite demands to increased oxygen demand and unprovoked irritations.

Delivery ushers in more challenges to an employer, from the legal and human resource perspective. But any employer mindful of his organisation’s reputation must understand the effects of these physical changes and their psychological and mental implications to a woman.

This not only affects their productivity and concentration but may cause unexpected absenteeism. It calls for flexibility in working arrangements that may tilt the employment terms and conditions. It could be suicidal to contemplate disciplinary action.

The Employment Act envisaged that situation, prohibiting termination of women’s employment due to pregnancy. This is firmed up by Article 41 of the Constitution, on labour rights, which demands reasonable working conditions.

The Breastfeeding Mothers Bill has been pending in Parliament since 2017. Apart from making it mandatory for employers to provide a nursing area, it seeks flexible working arrangements for mothers. No expectant woman should faint at work for lack of a resting place. And no nursing mother should breastfeed or express in a toilet—which is not only unhygienic but also degrades a mother’s dignity. It minimises the privacy and confidence of a woman.

While some of these things may not be within the legal parameters, they form good practice policies and ethos for an organisation that cares about the welfare and wellbeing of its employees. This can form the basis for employee loyalty and act as a staff retention magnet.

Mr Munoko is an advocate of the High Court of Kenya. [email protected].