Reaping rewards of mum-friendly workplace

 Rose Muthoni @rosemuthoniN

Last week thousands of women around the world celebrated the gains they have made over the years and to re-emphasise their right as mothers to nurse their children without shame  during Breastfeeding Week 2018. However, a lot more work remains to be done to overcome an obstacle that prevents potentially millions of women from breastfeeding: Workplace policies that do not support the right of working mothers to breastfeed their babies on the job. As a small and medium enterprise (SME), you might wonder why breastfeeding should matter to you. But it should. There are several benefits of incorporating breastfeeding into your business.

In all industries, and in every position imaginable, women have become an important part of the workforce. The majority of women taking up key jobs in companies, big and small alike, are in the reproductive age.

So as a forward looking business, you must pay attention to this demographic. Not only will taking care of your breastfeeding employees work for their good and that of their babies, when done right, it will provide short and long-term benefits for you as an employer.

At the end of the day, you will have healthier, happier and more motivated employees and work environments thereby driving positive business results. Turning a blind eye to the needs of your lactating employees will only negatively affect employee turnover and heighten dissatisfaction with management. This is definitely going to negatively impact the bottom line. Here is why working women should be provided with conducive spaces they can use to breastfeed their babies.

Good business sense

Establishing healthy breastfeeding practices in your workplace will do wonders for the business. It could be as small a gesture as introducing flexi hours for lactating mothers or setting up a pumping station in your premises as the Breastfeeding Mothers Bill 2017 requires.

The bill requires that every employer establish a lactation station shielded from view and be free from intrusion from co-workers, be clean, quiet, private and warm, not be a bathroom or toilet and have a lockable door. It also have a wash basin, a fridge for storing expressed milk, a provision for an electric outlet and lighting and have a chair, table and a clean space to store equipment. The law works for the good of your company.

Employers argue that setting up such a facility as proposed in the bill or introducing flexi hours would work against women. But remember that for your company to soar, diversity is key. Cutting out women from your workplace will not only work against you in the eyes of your customers, it is bound to work against your profits.

Return on investment

According to the Entrepreneur magazine, employers in the US of both hourly and salaried workers have begun to see a major return on investment from simply supporting their employed mothers, saving on average $3 (Sh300) for every $1 (Sh100) invested in breastfeeding support. It follows that when babies are well taken care of, well breastfed, young ones require less time and healthcare expense. The immunity of a child is linked to its mother’s ability to nurse it. A sickly child will only mean that your employee takes time out from work to take care of the baby. One survey from US, the Entrepreneur magazine says, concluded that fewer workdays are missed with healthier babies. It also found that many mothers missed work due to their babies having one of 40 common illnesses, but only 25 per cent of those same illnesses occurred in exclusively breastfed babies.

Supporting moms by providing lactation stations or flexi hours helps them maintain their breastfeeding goals and eases the transition of returning to work. This in turn leads to increased productivity because when they feel valued and respected by their employer, they tend to work harder.

Win-win situation

Everyday, businesses compete to bring in the most skilled employee into their fold. For you to get the best of the best, it is important that you adopt a family-centric and supportive approach. And while you attract new talent, this approach will also help you retain existing employees. Guaranteeing a right to breastfeeding in the workplace is not only good for business, it is also a mother’s right to have these benefits. And if you think it is a daunting task, just visit Mabati Rolling Mills Ltd, Safaricom, Red Lands Roses, Karen Roses and the more than 30 companies that have established lactation centres and find out what benefits they are accruing from this.

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