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Business group says extending breastfeeding paid break to two years is 'excessive'

Extending paid breastfeeding breaks for new mothers is "excessive", according to a business group...
Marita Moloney
Marita Moloney

09.07 5 Jul 2021


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Business group says extending...

Business group says extending breastfeeding paid break to two years is 'excessive'

Marita Moloney
Marita Moloney

09.07 5 Jul 2021


Share this article


Extending paid breastfeeding breaks for new mothers is "excessive", according to a business group that represents small and medium enterprises.

The Minister for Children Roderic O'Gorman has recently campaigned to increase the mandatory breastfeeding entitlement from six months to two years.

Under the current rules, women who are breastfeeding are entitled to take one hour off work each day, with pay, as a breastfeeding break for up to 26 weeks after the birth of their child.

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However, ISME believes that extending the entitlement will not encourage more women to breastfeed for longer and will create issues for employers.

The group's Chief Executive Neil McDonnell told Newstalk Breakfast that the current six-month entitlement is not precluding the uptake of breastfeeding in Ireland.

"We acknowledge that Ireland has one of the lowest rates of breastfeeding in Europe but what we're saying is, we're not going to solve that by increasing workplace entitlements and putting them on employers because we don't believe that's the real barrier to extending this," he said.

"The current entitlement to six months' paid breastfeeding breaks broadly matches the weaning period and to extend liability on that to employers for two years, we just think would be excessive and it's not going to address the core issue that there's a social and cultural issue here.

"Taking that out to two years isn't going to address the problem but it is going to create a great deal of difficulty for employers."

Business group says extending breastfeeding paid break to two years is 'excessive'

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Mr McDonnell added that employers already facilitate women breastfeeding after six months where possible.

"Nobody is stopping women in the workplace, which is suitable and amenable to it happening in the first place, breastfeeding after six months," he said.

"The issue is, should the liability to pay for that fall on the employer? Where employers can accommodate this, it's already happening."

Speaking to the same programme, author, journalist, and mother-of-seven Jen Hogan said she was "gobsmacked" at his comments.

"The whole idea of entitlements only extending six months, most women will be out on maternity leave until that period so by the time they return, their breastfeeding leave entitlement has expired," she said.

"I am somebody who availed of such breastfeeding leave until the end of two years, my employer did facilitate it.

"We do have one of the lowest breastfeeding rates in Europe, we do absolutely have to do something about our figures because the health benefits are very well documented and it would help society as a whole if we were to increase our breastfeeding rates here.

"At six months, you don't just stop breastfeeding, the baby doesn't just stop feeding, and mum doesn't stop producing milk, it's a weaning process that goes on and women are forced to stop breastfeeding sooner than they would like to because of the current situation."

breastfeeding File photo of a child being breastfed. Image: Anthony Devlin/PA Wire/PA Images

It time for Ireland to facilitate and support women in the workplace, Ms Hogan added, as there are already problems, such as the gender pay gap and women having to choose between high childcare costs or not returning to work.

Ms Hogan said anything that would help and support women's return to the workplace while continuing to breastfeed, while benefitting themselves, their babies and society as a whole should be welcomed.

"It depends on every individual situation, there are ways to work around it, this is just putting obstacles in the way," she added.

"Flexibility from employers is imperative."

Main image: File photo. Credit: Iuliia Bondarenko from Pixabay

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