Hello everyone. Here I am again to inundate you with more legalise, this time in respect of the rights of a working mother to nurse i.e. breastfeed her baby. This will not be a lengthy exposition but I hope to provide you with a concise picture of the law in Botswana as it currently stands in respect this area.
I exclusively breastfed my son for the first 7 months of his life. It is something that I must confess to be very proud of as it was by no means an easy feat given that I returned to full time work when he was three months old. It involved a rather tiring process of expressing milk, often overnight or in the early hours of the morning, leading up to my return to work so as to build up a stockpile of breastmilk as well as having to express twice a day whilst at work.
Once again as I stated in my previous article regarding maternity leave, I am extremely lucky in that I work in an office setting which is very accommodating to working mothers and have co-workers which were very helpful and considerate. I have my own separate office with a door capable of being locked and as such I was able to express in the privacy of my own office, in a comfortable and clean setting and I was also able to continue to work whilst doing so.
Unfortunately, there is no law in existence currently in Botswana which creates any obligation on an employer to provide a breastfeeding mother with any space or setting to enable them to express in privacy or the likes. As such elements of that nature will differ from employer to employer and workplace to workplace.
The best I can do is advise you, if you intend to express when returning to work to chat with your employer beforehand to explain that you will need to express through the working day in the hopes that your employer will be willing to facilitate that process for you by setting aside a space at the workplace where you can do so privately and hygienically, in the event you don’t have use of your own private office and may also sensitise the other staff members to ensuring that you are afforded privacy over that time.
What enabled me to keep up with the exclusive feeding was the ability to go home half way through the day to drop off the batch of milk I had expressed in the morning, as well as give my son a lunch time feed. That was made possible by virtue of section 118 of the Employment Act which states as follows:
“118. Female employee to be permitted to nurse child
(1) Where a female employee wishes to suckle her child or otherwise feed him herself, the employer shall permit her to do so for half-an-hour twice a day during the hours of work for six months immediately after her return to work, pursuant to the provisions of this Part, following her confinement and shall pay her, her basic pay in respect of each such period as if it were ordinary working time.
(2) Any employer who contravenes subsection (1) shall be guilty of an offence and liable to the penalties prescribed by section 151(c).”
Section 118 is very straightforward and self-explanatory. It creates the right for a female employee who has returned to her place of employment after the cessation of her maternity leave to, two (2) half hour periods each working day, during which that employee may absent themselves from duty in order to suckle or otherwise feed her baby. The employer is obligated to release such employee for that purpose and is furthermore required to pay her for those periods as though she were at work. This right and obligation is restricted to a period of six (6) months after the employee has resumed duty following maternity leave.
What can further be gained from a reading of section 118 is the following:
* It is a right that extends only over a female employee. There is no reciprocal provision for a male employee (father). One may argue that it renders the provision unconstitutional due to discrimination and inequality based on gender but that challenge has never been advanced through our Courts so the provisions stands as is and only covers a female employee;
* The section does not limit the right to female employees who are breastfeeding. In other words there is no requirement on the part of the employee to show that she breastfeeds in order to qualify for the rights extended under this section. Section 118 clearly covers a female employee who “wishes to suckle her child (i.e breastfeed) or otherwise feed (i.e bottle feed or feed by any other method or manner) him herself…”
In the event that an employer refuses to afford the female employee the rights governed by section 118 then that employer would be guilty of an offence which is punishable by a fine not exceeding P1 500.00 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months or to both.
As I had indicated above I was able to make exclusive breastfeeding work for as long as I was able to by going home half way through the day. I did this by lumping together my two half hours into one solid block of one hour and combining it with my one hour lunch break. I would leave the office at 12:00pm and return at 14:00pm, having the chance to breastfeed my son in the day. It made far more practical and logistical sense as to try and get anywhere and back in traffic in a half hour period is nigh on impossible.
There should be no issue really with a female employee opting to lump together the two half hours as it still results in the same one hour period provided for in section 118. Once again my advice as always is to discuss the logistics with your employer beforehand, I always find active communication and disclosure takes both parties a long way forward and can save everyone gripes and misunderstandings down the line.
There you have it, so happy working and feeding 🙂
- A Working Mothers Right To Breastfeed Her Baby - 29/01/2018
- Botswana and Maternity Leave: What you need to know - 18/09/2017