More support needed for workplace breastfeeding and childcare
23 Aug 2019
Heart-warming images of House Speaker Trevor Mallard cradling a baby in Parliament have been welcomed around New Zealand, but the Public Service Association warns most families can only dream of such support in the workplace.
"We urge employers to take heed of this positive example and make New Zealand jobs more child and family friendly," says PSA National Secretary Glenn Barclay.
"The sad reality for most working people is they struggle to balance the needs of a baby with the demands of their boss."
Mr Barclay is one of two PSA National Secretaries, and with his counterpart Erin Polaczuk currently on maternity leave herself the question of support for breastfeeding mothers in the workplace is highly topical for the union.
The World Health Organisation recommends babies are exclusively breastfed until they are six months old, with breastfeeding continued alongside appropriate complementary foods up to the age of two and older.
These recommendations are echoed by Plunket and our own Ministry of Health, but a 2017 study suggests half of New Zealand babies stop being exclusively breastfed by 4 months old.
Paid parental leave is only available at present for 22 weeks. It will be extended to 26 weeks in 2020.
"New Zealand law currently gives employers too many loopholes to get out of providing suitable breaks and facilities for breastfeeding or expressing at work," says Mr Barclay.
"Either employment laws should provide stronger support for mothers returning to work after six months, or paid parental leave should be extended to a year or longer."