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Deputy calls for paid breastfeeding breaks

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SOME women working for the States are being forced to use holiday entitlement to express milk for their babies or take unpaid breaks because of a lack of consistency between department and managers, it has been claimed.

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Deputy Louise Doublet has now lodged a proposition calling for paid breastfeeding breaks to be introduced for all States employees with immediate effect.

Such a provision is contained in family-friendly proposals from the Social Security Minister. However, that proposition was recently withdrawn pending more work and is due to return to the House in the autumn. If approved, the measures it contains will not come into force until next year.

Deputy Doublet says, however, that such a wait is unacceptable for those potentially being affected today.

‘From the research I have carried out, I understand that there is not usually any problem with finding suitable times and space for mothers to express milk in any States department,’ she says in the report accompanying the proposition.

‘The difficulty is whether those breaks are paid as part of the normal working day, or whether pay is deducted for the times the employee is feeding/expressing. In some cases, employees are being asked to use their holiday time to express milk.’

The States maternity policy currently asks employees to discuss short-term flexible working arrangements to accommodate breastfeeding on the basis that such breaks would normally be unpaid.

Under the proposals from the minister, where an employee returns to work within 52 weeks of a child’s birth she must be paid – at her normal rate – for any breaks for breastfeeding or expressing. After 52 weeks any such breaks would be unpaid.

Within the States, Deputy Doublet estimates that around 20 employees each year may return to work within 52 weeks of giving birth. She estimates that if each employee requests a one-hour paid break on each day (at a cost of £21.53) of a five-day working week, for a three-month period, the cost to the States for 20 employees would be £27,989.

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She adds: ‘It is my firm view that the Government of Jersey, as an employer, should immediately extend rights to paid (reasonable) breastfeeding breaks to all States employees.

This would be in line with government policy, and would show employers around the Island that they too can extend these rights to their employees without waiting for the law to change.’

The proposition is due to be debated on 10 September.

Lucy Stephenson

By Lucy Stephenson
author

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