Public servants win breast breaks
AFTER three months struggling with breastfeeding and work, new Lismore mum Tory Hardy has welcomed the decision to give mothers in the NSW Public Service the time and space to feed their babies at work.
While not working in the public service herself, Ms Hardy made the difficult decision to stop breastfeeding last month due to stress.
“Nothing was working and he wouldn’t latch on,” she said. “I’ve been lucky compared with some mothers as I’ve only been working two shifts a week, but it was still very stressful.
“Stress impacts dramatically on breastfeeding and the baby picks up on it.”
However, following negotiations between the Public Service Association (PSA) and the Director of Public Employment, the NSW IndustrialRelations Commissioner last week approved a variation to the industrial award – known as the Lactation Clause – describing it as a ‘significant milestone in the public sector’.
Breastfeeding mothers now will be allowed two half-hour paid breaks to breastfeed or express milk in a private space with access to hygienic facilities such as a fridge and a sink.
Part-time workers are to be allowed a half-hour break each four-hour shift.
The PSA’s women’s officer, Anne Kennelly, told The Northern Star the union had started the negotiations after receiving countless reports of women having to express milk in cars or staff toilets in their lunch breaks.
Others had given up breastfeeding due to a lack of workplace support, and some had been harassed for storing milk in work fridges.
The Director of Public Employment will issue a detailed circular on the Premier’s website shortly.
Ms Kennelly said the catalyst for the campaign was the complaint from a PSA member working for the NSWPolice Force.
Other public sector unions, such as nurses and teachers, are expected to move to vary their awards as well.
Lactation consultant Caroline Ryan, who runs breastfeeding clinics at the Northern Rivers Family Care Centre, described the ruling as ‘fabulous’.
“A lot of mothers come to us struggling with the issue,” she said. “It is mainly for financial reasons that mothers return to work, plus we have many career women up here whose partners are stay-at-home dads.
“It will save the health budget a fortune in the future as breast feeding reduces obesity, heart disease, high cholesterol, asthma, eczema, diabetes and other diseases.
“It also reduces the risk of osteoporosis and cancer in mothers and improves their emotional wellbeing.
“I hope it spills out to the wider community.”
Self-employed new mum Sarah Gurney, while agreeing with the creation of a more supportive workplace for breastfeeding, was concerned about the cost.
“As a small business owner I think it would be hard to afford,” she said.