What you need to know:
- Kenya has adopted the Global Strategy by WHO and Unicef on infant and young child feeding through the enactment of policy and legislative frameworks for promoting, protecting and supporting breastfeeding.
- The nursing break includes the time it takes an employee to get to and from the lactation station, and is counted as paid working hours provided that such interval is not more than one hour for every eight-hour working period.
I recently resumed my duties as a marketer for a private firm after three months of maternity leave. I am breastfeeding and, therefore, I have to express milk in the washroom during tea and lunch breaks. This takes a bit of time. Last week, my supervisor issued me with a show-cause letter on why I was wasting the firm’s time (while expressing milk). Unfortunately, the firm does not have space to accommodate this need. What should I do?
Margaret Makena, Nairobi.
Due to lack of education around this matter, breastfeeding in the workplace has been an issue for decades now.
In fact, last year’s World Breastfeeding Week’s theme was ‘Step up for Breastfeeding - Educate and Support’. The campaign focused on strengthening actors’ capacity to protect, promote and support breastfeeding across different levels of society.
Kenya has adopted the Global Strategy by WHO and Unicef on infant and young child feeding through the enactment of policy and legislative frameworks for promoting, protecting and supporting breastfeeding.
They include: the 2010 Constitution, which guarantees every child the right to basic nutrition and health of the highest attainable standard; the Breastmilk Substitutes (Regulation and Control) Act, 2012, which provides for appropriate marketing and distribution of breastmilk substitutes; and the Health Act, 2017, which requires all employers to establish lactation stations at the workplace.
In your case, the Health Act has the necessary provisions on breastfeeding, which requires all employers to grant nursing employees break intervals for nursing in addition to regular times off for meals, and to breastfeed or express milk.
The nursing break includes the time it takes an employee to get to and from the lactation station, and is counted as paid working hours provided that such interval is not more than one hour for every eight-hour working period.
Employers are further required to establish lactation stations in the workplace, which shall be adequately provided with necessary equipment and facilities, including handwashing equipment, refrigerators or appropriate cooling facilities, electrical outlets for breast pumps, a small table and comfortable seats. Notably, the lactation station must not be located in the rest rooms.
Finally, in 2018, the Ministry of Health developed guidelines for securing a breastfeeding friendly environment at the workplace.
The guidelines provide direction to employers on how to implement workplace support for female employees to exclusively breastfeed their babies for six months, and to continue breastfeeding with adequate complementary feed until two years and beyond.
They also provide a mechanism for comprehensive interventions and guidance, thus, enabling female employees to combine breastfeeding and work in line with the requirements of the Health Act, 2017.
The writer is an advocate of the High Court of Kenya and an award-winning civil society lawyer ([email protected]).