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Cork South West TD Holly Cairns has called on the Government to lead by example by providing suitable facilities for public service workers who are breastfeeding.

Holly said:

“I have been contacted by some mothers who had recently returned to work in the public service but the only space made available for them to express milk was a toilet.

“As the law currently stands, employers are not obliged to provide facilities in the workplace to facilitate breastfeeding if it would prove too costly. While this is understandable in the case of small and medium employers, I think it is reasonable to expect large companies and Government departments to provide appropriate facilities.

“I believe it is important for the Government to lead by example so I asked ministers if they had dedicated spaces for breastfeeding and expressing breast milk in workplaces assigned to their departments in Dublin and across the country. There was a range of responses which indicated that we still have a way to go in providing appropriate facilities for new mothers returning to work.

“The Social Protection Minister, Heather Humphreys, provided the most reassuring answer when she confirmed that in her department’s 13 main offices and 75 Intreo centres, there is at least one restroom which can be used by a breastfeeding mother. These rooms have a bed, a chair and a lockable door. In addition, the offices have arrangements where staff can store expressed milk in fridges. The Minister for Health had a similar response.

“The Taoiseach gave a positive response when he clarified that his department, which is completely based in Government Buildings, has a private room with ensuite facilities available to staff requiring private space for breastfeeding and expressing breast milk. Staff also have access to fridges to store breast milk.

“Unfortunately, not all answers were as satisfactory. The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine is spread across 71 buildings around the country, of which only 34 (48%) have dedicated restrooms which can be used by staff as required.

“However, most disappointingly, the Finance Minister said that his department does not have any dedicated spaces for breastfeeding or expressing breast milk in its offices.

“Some ministers pointed out that their staff can avail of reduced working hours, without loss of pay, to facilitate breastfeeding where suitable spaces are not available.

“It is clear from the responses I received that the Government needs to do much more to provide adequate breastfeeding facilities for public service workers.”

October 30, 2020

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