Breastfeed and the workplace

South Africa’s Public Health Policy promotes and encourages mothers to breastfeed their babies for at least the first six months of the child’s life. The Basic Conditions of Employment Act and its Code of Good Practice, provides that an employer should allow a breastfeeding mother at least two breaks per day of at least thirty minutes each to express milk for her baby. These breaks should be given in addition to her normal tea and/or lunch breaks. It is the duty of the employee to engage with her employer if she intends to breastfeed beyond six months and to make arrangements to support breastfeeding.
A pregnant employee should give notice to her employer, well in advance of her intention to breastfeed, in order to provide the employer the opportunity to arrange a clean and private area where the employee can express milk. It is the employee’s duty to engage with her employer or manager as soon as she returns from maternity leave to allow her employer ample opportunity to accommodate breastfeeding in the workplace.

However, the Code of Good Practice fails to address a few important points such as whether:

  • breaks for expressing will be paid or unpaid;
  • the time period how long an employer should allow the employee to take these breaks to express breastmilk;  and
  • whether the employer should make provision for the storing and refrigeration of expressed breastmilk.

It is important that the employer and employee are on the same page.  Communication plays a vital role and employers must take care to consult with employees regarding the above and agree on the way forward.  Culture, gender, values, beliefs, etc. of all parties should also be taken into consideration in the communication process to ensure effective communication.

The Code of Good Practice serves as a guideline for employers to follow.  However, by creating a supportive environment for breastfeeding mothers in the workplace, the employer promotes the health of employees and their babies. 



Stay ahead with our comprehensive compliance questionnaire. We’ll help pinpoint any gaps, ensuring you operate within legal guidelines.