Employers need to do more to support breastfeeding women in the workplace – UNICEF, ILO
Joint press release
Manila, 1 August 2023 — In commemoration of World Breastfeeding Week on 1-7 August, the UN agencies for children and labour rights, UNICEF and the International Labour Organization (ILO), called on employers in the Philippines to do more to support breastfeeding women.
In the Philippines, a 2019 study by the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) found that marriage and childbearing are associated with a significant decline in the female labour force participation. The COVID-19 pandemic also worsened the uneven share of housework and family care between women and men, with over 2 million moms around the globe leaving the labour force in 2020.
Breastfeeding is one of the most accessible care policies that can be applied at the workplace. It is a clear measure to help women transition back to work after giving birth.
“The benefits of breastfeeding for children, mothers, and society are widespread. Breastfeeding protects infants against life-threatening infections, supports healthy brain development in children, and prevents chronic childhood and maternal illness, reducing health care costs,” said UNICEF Philippines Deputy Representative Behzad Noubary.
In the Philippines, the Expanded Breastfeeding Promotion Act of 2009 or Republic Act 10028 mandates all establishments, public or private, whether operating for profit or not, to support breastfeeding in the workplace. Recognizing the importance of this gender equality and health promoting practice for working women, paid nursing breaks, flexible arrangements and workplace nursing facilities still remain untapped resources for the large majority of women.
“Maternity protection to support exclusive and continued breastfeeding is a universal but unfulfilled human and labour right. Paid and job-protected maternity leave and adequate maternal and child healthcare are essential to the life, health, safety and economic fulfilment of women and their children. However, discrimination based on maternity persists for many women in the Philippines and across the world,” said ILO Philippines Country Director Khalid Hassan.
For breastfeeding to succeed in the workplace, UNICEF and ILO encourage employers to fulfill workplace provisions of the Expanded Breastfeeding Promotion Act of 2009 (RA 10028), which mandates:
- A workplace lactation policy with relevant provisions that is part of the general policy/manual of operations and widely disseminated among employees.
- A dedicated lactation/breastfeeding station in the workplace not located within a toilet, where breastfeeding mothers can wash up, breastfeed or express their milk in comfort and store their breastmilk afterwards. The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) Department Order No. 143/2015 provides models and lists lactation station equivalences for establishments with peculiar workplace circumstances.
- Lactation periods that are in addition to the regular time-off for meals. These periods should be counted as compensable hours worked and not less than a total of 40 minutes for every 8-hour working period, with 2-3 breastmilk expressions lasting 15-30 minutes each within a workday.
- Breastfeeding information that is easily accessible (posters, pamphlets, videos and other resources) or through counselling by trained individuals, or peer educators within the workplace or community. Activities must also follow the Milk Code and prohibit persons or companies from promoting, displaying or giving away infant formula and related products.
Supporting breastfeeding in the workplace is good for mothers, babies and businesses. Family -friendly workplace policies benefit employers by:
- Improving the corporate image of businesses, showing that they care about the health and well-being of working women and their families.
- Reducing maternity-related absenteeism, which can translate into 30–70 per cent fewer absences, increasing the retention of female workers, as they feel more supported by their employers.
- Reducing employee turnover rates, resulting in cost savings by eliminating the need to hire and train new staff.
UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.
For more information about UNICEF and its work for children in the Philippines, visit www.unicef.ph.
The International Labour Organization is the United Nations agency for the world of work. We bring together governments, employers and workers to drive a human-centred approach to the future of work through employment creation, rights at work, social protection and social dialogue.
For more information about the ILO and its work to advance social justice and promote decent work in the Philippines, visit www.ilo.org/manila.