Breastfeeding in the workplace – A guide for employers


As we celebrate Mother’s Day, it is crucial that we recognise the role of all mothers, including those who are having to balance the various demands of motherhood alongside their careers.

One area where support is particularly crucial for mothers within the workforce is breastfeeding. For new mothers who wish to breastfeed, returning to work following the birth of a child can present significant challenges.

According to a recent research conducted by the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists (“ASMS”), a proportion of women stop breastfeeding upon their return to work due to a number of structural factors, including a lack of support and understanding from colleagues and managers.[1]It is evident from this study that having supportive employers, managers, and co-workers are crucial factors for a lot of mothers to consider when deciding  whether or not they will continue breastfeeding upon their return to work. In New Zealand there are a number of legal obligations and best practices that employers are required to follow to ensure breastfeeding mothers feel supported and empowered within the workplace.

Under the Employment Relations Act 2000 and the Employment Relations (Breaks, Infant Feeding and Other Matters) Amendment Act 2008, employers are required to provide unpaid breaks and/or appropriate facilities, where it is reasonable and practicable, for employees who wish to breastfeed their infants or express milk during working hours.

The Code of Employment Practice on Infant Feeding, developed by the Department of Labour, in consultation with groups such as Business New Zealand and the Ministry of Health, provides a useful guidance on the range of factors employers should consider when negotiating breastfeeding arrangement. The Code also provides practical ideas on factors to consider such as health and safety, facilities and resources required for breastfeeding employees.[2]


Under the Code Employers are required to ensure:

Under the Code, toilet facilities are not considered an appropriate place for employees to breastfeed or express breast milk.

Other ways to support breastfeeding mothers in the workplace

In addition to ensuring the legal requirements in relation to breastfeeding in the workplace are met, creating a supportive workplace culture is essential for breastfeeding mothers. Employers should consider implementing policies that promote flexibility, such as flexible work arrangements and support for breastfeeding breaks. Educating managers and employees about the importance of breastfeeding and the rights of breastfeeding mothers is also crucial to creating a supportive environment for breastfeeding mothers in the workplace.

If your organisation needs supporting to be an employer of choice and to enhance the opportunities to be inclusive and considerate to those returning to work with young children, get in touch black door law.


Disclaimer: This information is intended as general legal information and does not constitute legal advice. If you have a specific issue and wish to discuss it get in contact with the Black Door Law team