House Of Reps Propose Compulsory Crèches In Public, Private Offices, Workplaces

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The Nigeria’s House of Representatives passed for second reading a bill seeking the establishment of crèche in government-owned and private offices, schools, hospitals and other workplaces.

The proposal is contained in a bill seeking to amend the country’s Labour Act, sponsored by a member, Sergius Ogun.

The legislation is titled, ‘A Bill for an Act to Amend the Labour Act, Cap. L1, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004 to Make Provision for Establishment of Creches in Every Public or Private (Health, Educational, Industrial or Commercial, Etc.) Workplace for Employees Who are Breastfeeding/Nursing Mothers; and for Related Matters.’

Leading the debate on the bill, Ogun said the objective was to amend the Act “to make provision for the establishment of crèches in public and private workplaces for employees who are breastfeeding/nursing mothers.”

The lawmaker noted that the World Health Organisation and United Nations Children’s Fund recently recommended the early introduction of newborn babies to breastfeeding, at least within one hour of birth; exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life and an introduction of nutritionally adequate and safe solid foods after six months of birth, together with continued breastfeeding for up to two years of age or beyond.

He also quoted the Minister for Health, Prof Osagie Ehanire, in his press statement during the 2021 Breastfeeding Week, as noting that the exclusive breastfeeding rate in Nigeria was as low as 29 per cent, indicating that 71 per cent of infants in Nigeria do not enjoy the full benefits of breast milk in their formative years.

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He further quoted Ehanire as saying many infants do not receive optimal feeding as only 9 per cent of organisations in Nigeria have a workplace breastfeeding policy.

“This bill, therefore, seeks to amend the Labour Act so as to make provision for the establishment of crèches in public and private workplaces for employees who are breastfeeding/nursing mothers.

“The extant provisions of the Labour Act, which provides for four months maternity leave for nursing mothers, may be insufficient for mothers to exclusively breastfeed their babies for up to six months as recommended. Therefore, availability of crèches in workplaces will allow nursing mothers to resume work and still be able to breastfeed their babies as recommended by the WHO and UNICEF.

“This has the potential to provide stronger immunity, reduced risk of infections and resistance to childhood diseases. This will also go a long way in enhancing productivity of such employees, knowing that their children are in safe hands. While reducing the rate of low breastfeeding, it will also reduce the rate of infant mortality.”

The lawmaker cited Clause 2 of the bill as stipulating that “it shall be the duty of every employer to provide a crèche facility within the precincts of the workplace, where employees who are breastfeeding and/or nursing mothers can keep their sucking children within work hours under the watch of a nanny employed by the employer at a reasonable fee.”

“This bill, when passed into law, will enhance the productivity of working-class nursing mothers as well as reduce the rate of infant mortality in the country.”

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