Employers and commercial building owners in Kenya face a fine of up to KShs1 million (about UShs36 million) for failure to allocate breastfeeding spaces under a proposed law which seeks to give infants a two-year protection.
The Breastfeeding Mothers Bill of 2019 tabled in the National Assembly makes it compulsory for all persons who own, lease or rent buildings holding at least 50 people to provide a lactation room.
The room, according to the bill should be “a clean, private facility with a baby changing table, waste bucket and a sign indicating its location.”
The bill by Murang’a Women Representative Sabina Chege also bars employers from discriminating women based on pregnancy, childbirth or breastfeeding in accessing employment opportunities and benefits.
Currently, only a handful of private and public organisations have lactation rooms with most breastfeeding mothers returning to work after three-month maternity leave being forced to express milk for their infants in cars, washrooms or empty boardrooms.
“A person convicted of an offence under this Act shall on conviction be liable to a fine not exceeding Sh1 million or to an imprisonment for a term not exceeding one year or to both,” the proposed law reads.
Additionally, those fined for failure to provide lactation rooms will also pay Sh10,000 each day during which the offence continues until they put up the facilities.
Failure to provide lactation facilities has seen working mothers suffer the indignity of struggling to breastfeed their babies.
A report by lobby, Kenya Private Sector Alliance early this year showed that only 37 companies have lactation rooms underlining the dire situation.
Mrs Chege in her memorandum on the bill adds that it is aimed at enhancing the health of the baby and enhancing the mother-baby relationship.