Topic: A critical review and analysis of the human right and legal entitlement of Australian women to breastfeed on their return to work. A comparative legal study of Australia, United States and Ireland

Presenter: Rachel McDonald - PhD, TC Beirne School of Law

Despite the growing body of evidence that breastfeeding benefits the health of individuals, including mothers and babies, and is economically advantageous to society, and despite the growing numbers of women returning to work after having a baby, workplaces in Australia still present challenges to women employees who breastfeed. World Health Organisation and the National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia recommendations include exclusive breastfeeding for six months with breastfeeding continuing to 2 years and beyond. However, paid parental leave usually expires before this time and constraints of workplace structures such as work schedules, workplace layoutsand attitudes of managers and co-employees can present obstacles to women who need to breastfeed during their workshift. 

The thesis examines what laws in Australia provide protection, support and promotion of breastfeeding in the workplace including anti-discrimination laws and employment laws. The research will obtain empirical data through surveys of women employees who have returned to work and breastfed or who intend to. The key issues will be whether Australian women are aware of laws relating to their situation and whether those laws are useful. The thesis will examine laws from other countries and regimes to ascertain whether Australia can find useful legal approaches to protect, promote and support breastfeeding employees and employers in Australian workplaces. The thesis fills the gap of a lack of legal literature on breastfeeding workplace laws in Australia.

All welcome, no RSVP required.

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