Breastfeeding and working is protected through legislation in New Zealand. The Employment Relations Amendment Act 2008 gives employees the right to breaks and appropriate facilities where possible to breastfeed or express milk for their baby. Human Rights Law in New Zealand gives women the right to breastfeed or express milk at work. However, more than one-third of New Zealand employers are unaware of workplace breastfeeding legislation.

Women’s Health Action carried out a survey of NZ employees and NZ employers and found that:
54% of employee respondents said their employers provided them with flexible hours and/or private facilities to breastfeed
20% of employees said that no workplace support was available
67% of employers said they saw a reduction in staff turnover when providing adequate breastfeeding facilities
 69% of employers said that providing breastfeeding support helped improve staff morale

Legislation in New Zealand

Human Rights Act 1993

Breastfeeding women have the right to breastfeed or express breastmilk at work. Employers are required to find ways for employees to do their job and have regular breaks to breastfeed or express milk. Treating a woman unfairly because she is breastfeeding or expressing breastmilk is a form of sex discrimination. More information can be found on Human Rights Commission website and this Human Rights Commission flyer.

Section 69Y Employment Relations (Breaks, Infant Feeding and Other Matters) Amendment Act 2008

The Employment Relations (Breaks, Infant Feeding, and Other Matters) Amendment Act 2008 requires employers to provide appropriate facilities and breaks for employees who wish to breastfeed either at the workplace or during a work period, as far as it is reasonable and practicable in the circumstances. The amendment balances the need to support the choices of employees, particularly regarding their work-life balance and caring responsibilities, with the operational requirements of New Zealand businesses.

The Code of Employment Practice on Infant Feeding

The Code of Employment Practice on Infant Feeding assists employers who want to know how to meet their obligations under the Act. Appropriate facilities, the nature of breaks, accommodating changes to meet circumstances and documenting arrangements, are all detailed in the Code.

Employment Relations (Flexible Working Arrangements) Amendment Act 2007

The Employment Relations Amendment Act provides employees who have been with their employer for 6 months or more and have young or dependent children the right to request part-time and flexible hours and the employer has a duty to seriously consider such requests.

Useful links

Breastfeeding in the workplace » a simple guide for employers about breastfeeding in the workplace. 

Breastfeeding at work » information from Employment NZ.

Diversity Works NZ » formerly EEO Trust, an organisation that helps workplaces improve their inclusivity. 

Human Rights Commission » breastfeeding is a human right. HRC has breastfeeding information for both employees and employers. 

Community Law » free legal help throughout New Zealand.

Working Women’s Resource Centre » Incorporated Society set up to help women advocate for themselves in the workplace. 

Find a Lactation Consultant » publicly funded services in the community offering Lactation support.