In recent years the proportion of working mothers has continued to increase. In response to this there are many new family-friendly policies and practices that are there to support you and your rights. However, the introduction of breastfeeding breaks and facilities may be new to some organisations, and your employers and managers may not have considered this specific scenario previously.Therefore, you may be in the position of needing to advocate for your rights in the workplace.
How can I advocate for myself?
➜ Know your entitlements. The Legislation, terms of employment, and relevant company policies and practices.
➜ Discuss your overall wishes well in advance (before you go on leave). Discuss your options during your leave, and then your more specific needs in plenty of time before you return to work.
➜ Understand areas of common ground between you and your employer. You want a job where you can be successful and happy. Your employer wants you to be successful and happy in the job, so you will be productive and continue to work there.
➜ Be the one to frame the issue as this will often determine the type of solution devised. An issue that is presented as a problem, for example, “lack of a dedicated breastfeeding room” is more likely to result in a different or less desirable solution than the same issue defined as, “need for some private space for 15 minutes twice a day”.
➜ If you can give an estimated time frame for your request e.g. “I expect to be feeding three times a day for the next 3 months and then probably twice per day for 6 months.” This will help your employer understand how much time you need, and in many cases, it won’t be as much as they might have thought!
➜ Don’t be pressured into accepting conditions you’re not happy with. If you do feel pressured, ask for some time to think about it.
➜ Suggest your preferred options for combining breastfeeding and work. You may be the first person to have requested workplace flexibility so that you can breastfeed, and it may, therefore, be that initially, the organisation does not know how to react.
➜ If you feel comfortable continue to be open with your employer about your needs. Review the situation with them regularly.
If you have an Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) Officer, Human Resources Group or Personnel Group, or are a member of a union, you may want to talk with them first about the company’s breastfeeding policies before discussing with your employer.