[UPDATE] Breastfeeding At The Office? Workplace Nursing Rights Set to Improve in Taiwan

[UPDATE] Breastfeeding At The Office? Workplace Nursing Rights Set to Improve in Taiwan
Photo Credit: Reuters/達志影像

What you need to know

Nursing mothers in Taiwan have suffered from unfriendly environments at work for decades. Unable to breastfeed their children makes 30% give up breastfeeding. However, the Legislative Yuan looks set to improve women's rights at work.

Translated and compiled by Yuan-ling Liang


By Olivia Yang

On May 3, the Legislative Yuan passed the third reading of the draft amendment of the Act of Gender Equality in Employment. Companies with more than 100 employees will be required to set up breastfeeding and childcare facilities, and women who have a child under two years old have the right to feed them during specific hours. Women are also guaranteed half an hour to breastfeed their babies for each hour they work overtime. Employers that violate related regulations can be fined NT$20,000 to NT$300,000 (approximately US$620 to US$9,320).

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The Legislative Yuan has passed the first draft of a new law promoting mothers’ breastfeeding rights at work. In the future, companies that hire more than 100 people will be required to set up breastfeeding facilities for their employees. Mothers with children under two years old have also been granted breastfeeding time at work. While women rights groups view the policy as a step forward, questions remain as to whether the changes would be enforced.

Storm Media reports, according to the draft amendment to the Act of Gender Equality in Employment, companies employing more than 100 workers should provide a nursery room for breastfeeding and childcare facilities. This rule only previously applied to companies with more than 250 staff. It is estimated that more than half of working mothers, with children of breastfeeding age, will benefit from the new policy. Women who have a child under two years old are also granted specific hours to feed their children; furthermore, they are guaranteed half an hour to breastfeed their babies for each hour they work overtime.

Legislator Lee Yen-hsiu, who issued the draft proposal, said on Facebook that only 4% of companies adhere to the current policy and provide real facilities for nursing mothers. Businesses offer varying protections, such as breastfeeding hours, among other welfare systems. Lee considers the protections to be insufficient and urges companies to take more responsibility.

It was initially proposed that companies employing more than 30 people should provide proper breastfeeding facilities. After discussion with the Minister of Labor, a compromised threshold of 100 employees was reached.

Concerns at work decrease breastfeeding

According to 1111 Job Bank’s recent survey on working mothers, more than 30% of working moms give up breastfeeding after they return to work. The main causes include obsession with their work (43%), concern about decreasing efficiency (29%) and the lack of breastfeeding space (31%).

Even if some mothers insist on breastfeeding their children, 56% of them suffer from great pressure for being unable to feed their babies on time. Further, 55% are concerned about lowering their work efficiency. About 38% of these mothers say they don’t find any place suitable to breastfeed their babies.

The survey also shows that if nursing mothers’ rights at work are protected, 93% of them would breastfeed their children.

In an interview with the Breastfeeding Association of Taiwan, Ms.Ho, a nursing mother, stated that she needed to go the restroom for breastmilk pumping because there wasn’t any nursery room in her company. Ho said it was very inconvenient and unfriendly due to the bad sanitary conditions and the limited space in restrooms. Several times, she threw out the milk she had pumped.

The News Lens wrote to the Breastfeeding Association of Taiwan, asking the organization’s opinion on this issue. Secretary General Kao I-ling says the association is glad to see this amended draft passed in the Legislative Yuan. Kao also says it regards the new law as not only a strong support to women but also men and that it benefits all families bearing children.

The Breastfeeding Association of Taiwan, in a Facebook post mentions the lack of protection regarding nursing mothers in the past, including the fact that many female workers take an hour leave without pay every day just to breastfeed their babies.

Will the policy have a real impact?

Netizens have reacted on PTT, a Taiwanese internet forum, talking about the policy.

Some netizens questioned the benefit this policy may bring, saying that “in an era of low birth rate, the government should not spend too much on these costly facilities.”

Some are wary of whether the policy will actually be enforced.

UDN reports, the Act of Gender Equality in Employment has been in place in Taiwan for more than a decade; however, there isn’t specific punishment for breaching the rules. Over 80% of companies with more than 250 people have breastfeeding rooms but only 4% have nursing facilities.

On April 5, several legislators issued a proposal that punishment be added in the act. However, Chen Hsiung-wen, Minister of Labor stated that the government should focus on encouraging the illegal companies instead of punishing them.

Edited by Edward White


Storm Media
The News Lens
Breastfeeding Association of Taiwan