When an employee is breastfeeding, this is a time when her health and that of her child are more vulnerable. The employer has an increased duty to protect her health.
It is scientifically proven that breastfeeding has beneficial effects on the health of the infant. In order to encourage breastfeeding even after returning to work, Switzerland has ratified an international convention and adopted legal provisions in this sense.
If a mother wishes to breastfeed her child after her maternity leave, she is entitled to paid breaks to do so or to express her milk. The length and frequency of these breaks depend on the length of the employee's working day.
The employee is only entitled to breaks during the first months of her child's life.
Length of work
When an employee takes breastfeeding breaks, the employer may be tempted to extend her workday or make her work overtime to make up for lost time.
However, breastfeeding can be a tiring period for the employee who needs to get enough rest. The length of her workday and the possibility of asking her to work overtime are very limited.
The health of the breastfeeding employee is paramount. Certain toxic substances or harmful micro-organisms can be found in the pregnant woman's milk and eventually affect the health of her child. This can also be the case when a breastfeeding mother is exposed to passive smoke, especially when she works on a terrace or in a smoking room as a waitress.
In addition, some jobs are strenuous or dangerous for breastfeeding mothers. This is the case, for example, for manual handling of heavy loads or work that exposes the mother to cold or heat.
In such cases, the employer must in principle offer a suitable and non-hazardous job to the nursing mother. Otherwise, the employer must, under certain conditions, pay her salary for a certain period of time.
In view of the numerous legal provisions protecting the breastfeeding woman, the employer may have certain fears. He is sometimes tempted to dismiss the employee in order to avoid having to grant breastfeeding breaks or to set up a room for this purpose.
Such a dismissal is very likely to be characterized as discriminatory, wrongful and retaliatory. The financial consequences for the employer can be significant.