Author(s): Hassan KH
This paper investigates the right (or the absence of it) of women in Malaysia to breastfeed in the workplace. We find that there has been a lack of clear legal guidance as to their rights and a lack of facilities in the workplace. The implication has been that in the absence of workplace support, it is difficult to combine breastfeeding and work. We find that the support of women's right to breastfeed in the workplace in Malaysia has been sporadic. The policy supporting breastfeeding has been piecemeal, issued by various ministries and hospitals. Using a qualitative approach that is anchored in legislation and government policy, this paper examines issues on the "right" of working mothers to breastfeed their babies in the workplace. Legal statutes and case law are analysed to gain an understanding of current legislation governing maternity protection and breastfeeding employees. We find that in Malaysia, employees' breastfeeding rights are not provided under the Employment Act 1955; hence this Act creates legal lacunae or gaps with regard to women's rights. Other legislation, such as industrial safety laws, protects breastfeeding employees by temporarily removing them from working in hazardous and dangerous working conditions but there is no legislation to offer equivalent protection in other workplaces. This issue is also analysed with reference to International Labour Standards, which provide a legal framework for breastfeeding breaks.