Monday 25 March 2019

'We're being forced to stop breastfeeding' - SNAs call for same breaks as teachers

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Amy Molloy

Amy Molloy

SPECIAL Needs Assistants are calling to have the same entitlement to breastfeeding breaks as teachers.

New mothers working as SNAs have hit out at how they are not afforded the same breaks as female teachers.

The Department of Education's circular allows women working as SNAs to have breastfeeding breaks until the baby is 26 weeks old, whereas for teachers it's a period of two years.

"If I was working in a classroom with a teacher who is also breastfeeding she is entitled to an hour a day to pump separate to her own lunch breaks while I sit in the classroom and let my supply dry up," one mother working as an SNA in a primary school said.

"I've been told I will have to pump on my break but I also need to do it somewhere private so not in the staffroom and as it takes 20 minutes to pump my choice is either I eat or I pump. I  feel I'm being forced to stop breastfeeding.

"I requested a 10 minute break onto my break during the school day so I could have time to eat and then pump and this request was denied."

The issue was recently raised in a parliamentary question by Labour TD Jan O'Sullivan.

Education Minister Joe McHugh acknowledged the increased time for breastfeeding given to teachers and said following consultation with school and staff representatives, the extension of these provisions to SNAs is "under consideration."

Local election candidate for Labour in Limerick, Conor Sheehan, said increasing the time "wouldn't cost the Education Minister a single penny."

"I was contacted by someone who works as an SNA in a local primary school and was told she had to express on her lunch break while a teacher working the same hours is  allowed specific breastfeeding breaks.

"Both replies from the Education Minister merely say that consideration is being given and to date no progress has been made.

"While numbers are increasing, Ireland continues to have one of the lowest breastfeeding rates in Europe and discriminatory rules like this only serve to make the problem worse. This simple rule change will make a massive difference to working mothers."

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