In South Africa, the Code of Good Practice on protection of employees during pregnancy and after the birth of a child (which forms part of the Basic Conditions of Employment Act),requires employers to allow breastfeeding employees 30 minutes breaks twice per day for breastfeeding or expressing milk every day for the first 6 months of the child’s life.

This means that you are allowed two breaks of 30 minutes each in addition to your usual lunch break and tea breaks (if any).

Unfortunately, the Code of Good Practice fails to address the number of important points, as per the bullets below:

• It does not specify whether your breastfeeding breaks are paid or unpaid.

When a mother returns from maternity leave, she needs to engage with her manager/employer to accommodate breastfeeding at work.

Pregnant mothers should notify their employer well in advance of their intention to breastfeed or express milk at work so that a clean and private area can be arranged.

• It doesn’t require your employer to give you a suitable space for expressing or for storing your milk.

However, one must attempt to arrange that one’s breast milk can be refrigerated or stored in a personal cooler bag.

• There are no penalties for employers who fail to comply with any breaches in terms of the Code of Good Practice;

An employee would have recourse and would be to take up the matter by lodging a formal written grievance on a grievance form, in terms of the employer’s grievance procedure. If the employer does not have such a procedure, the employee can google grievance procedures and comply with the general practice relating hereto.

If the grievance process remains unresolved, the employee has the right to declare a labour dispute at the CCMA or appropriate Bargaining Council.
Companies that support breastfeeding/expressing benefit in a number of ways such as reduced medical costs and health insurance claims for breastfeeding employees as well as their infants; reduce staff turnover rates; reduce absenteeism rates; improve productivity and increased employee morale and loyalty to the company.

The norms established by the Code are general and serve as guidelines for employers.