Maternity Units Breastfeeding Policy

All maternity units in New Zealand have a Breastfeeding Policy. As a consumer of the service you have the right to read this document. There should be an abridged version on noticeboards in the unit for you to view, however maternity units must provide a full policy on request.

Each facility has a unique policy that has been developed in consultation with the staff, health services and cultural groups in the local community. It is a powerful tool for you and maternity staff as it identifies the care that you can expect during your contact with the unit from pregnancy to discharge.

Breastfeeding at Work

In New Zealand you are currently entitled to 16 weeks paid parental leave. It will increase to 18 weeks by 1 April 2016. This is under review and may be extended to 26 weeks.

Excerpt from the Department of Labour:

"The Employment Relations Act 2000 supports the return to work of valued and productive workers and assists the best start for New Zealand infants."

Maternity leave of 16 continuous weeks may start up to six weeks before the expected date of birth or adoption. If you plan to take maternity leave, you must write to your employer at least three months before your expected date of birth. In certain cases maternity leave can start earlier.

Partner's/paternity leave (where the spouse/partner is an employee) is available for one week (for a spouse/partner with six months eligible service), or two weeks (for a spouse/partner with 12 months eligible service). Paternity leave can be extended in certain circumstances, if parental leave payments are transferred from a mother to an eligible spouse/partner. Paternity leave is additional to the period of maternity and extended leave.

Paternity leave can be taken in the period between 21 days before the expected date of delivery, 21 days after the actual date of birth, or the date you have assumed care of a child as a result of adoption.

For more information, visit the New Zealand at Work website.

Employers are required to provide appropriate facilities and breaks for employees who wish to breastfeed (including expressing breast milk). The breaks are unpaid unless the employee and employer agree otherwise.

The breastfeeding breaks are to be provided in addition to the standard paid rest breaks and unpaid meal breaks. The rest and meal breaks can also be used as breastfeeding breaks if this is agreed to by both employer and employee.

For more information on breaks and facilities for breastfeeding, click here.

Breastfeeding in Public

Excerpt from the Department of Labour:

"The most frequent complaints and enquiries to the Commission involve mothers being asked to leave cafes, pre-schools, museums, and other public places while breastfeeding their babies. In 1989, two women complained that they were not permitted to breastfeed on the premises of a Nelson restaurant. The Commission's Complaints Division determined that not permitting breastfeeding was a form of sex discrimination because the complainant was affected by gender and one other factor, namely, the act of breastfeeding. At the time this was described as "gender plus" discrimination.

In a 1994 decision, the Commission commented, "should someone not wish to go into the family room in future to breastfeed but prefer to stay in the other room, they must be permitted to do so".

The Commission observed that the complaint "was considered as sex discrimination under the Human Rights Commission Act 1977".

For more information on your right to breastfeed in public, visit the Human Rights Commission website.