HSE attacked for failure to facilitate its own staff who are breastfeeding
A HSE worker and breastfeeding mother has criticised the HSE for its "disappointing" lack of action in helping to facilitate breastfeeding mothers as they return to work.
The staff member, whose baby was born pre-term last year, said she felt that by breastfeeding her baby she would be improving his short-term and long-term outcomes.
Both the World Health Organisation and the HSE recommend that mothers breastfeed until children are two.
The HSE breastfeeding implementation group has drafted a "staff breastfeeding in the workplace policy" which proposes that employees will be supported to breastfeed until their child's second birthday through the provision of time, space and support.
However, the mother, who returned to work when her baby was 10 months old, told the Irish Independent that she was informed by her manager within the HSE that HR would not sanction pumping breaks.
The draft policy, which was compiled last year, has not yet been approved.
Yesterday, Ceann Comhairle Seán Ó Fearghaíl confirmed that TDs and senators would be facilitated to breastfeed in the Dáil and Seanad chambers.
The HSE policy being proposed is for staff to be granted lactation breaks in the form of one break of 60 minutes, which can be divided either into two breaks of 30 minutes each or pro-rated for longer or shorter shifts. The woman currently uses her 30-minute lunch and 15-minute tea break to express breast milk.
"I think it's really disappointing that higher management are not connected to what will make a difference at frontline level and for unions not to see it as a welfare issue, that's really disappointing," she said.
"Their policies and what they are saying in the health promotion side of things, it certainly doesn't match."
A HSE spokesperson told the Irish Independent: "The HSE is committed to supporting mothers to continue breastfeeding on return to work in line with WHO and HSE infant feeding recommendations and action 3.2 in the 'HSE Breastfeeding in a Healthy Ireland - Health Service Breastfeeding Action Plan 2016-2021'.
"The policy is currently going through the established processes with senior management and union engagement.
"While the current legislation supports mothers to breastfeed on return to work up to 26 weeks from the date of confinement, many services currently support employees to breastfeed on return to work beyond the 26 weeks timeframe."
The spokesperson added: "We would advise that the HSE staff member contacts her line manager and HR office if she is experiencing an issue."