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Bill seeking compulsory establishment of crèches in public, private workplaces passes second reading

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A bill seeking the compulsory establishment of creches in all public and private workplaces in the country, on Thursday passed the second reading on the floor of the House of Representatives.

According to the House, this is to assist breastfeeding/nursing mothers, especially those observing exclusive breastfeeding, to perform their official duties and care for their babies at the same time.

The bill passed the second reading in a unanimous voice vote and was sponsored by a lawmaker from Edo State, Rep. Sergius Ose-Ogun.

The bill was 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 (HB. 1438).”

This comes after the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) both recommend that nursing mothers should feed their infants exclusively on breast milk for the first six months.

The WHO had said, “Breast milk is the ideal food for infants. It is safe, clean, and contains antibodies that help protect against many common childhood illnesses.

“Breast milk provides all the energy and nutrients that the infant needs for the first months of life, and it continues to provide up to half or more of a child’s nutritional needs during the second half of the first year, and up to one third during the second year of life.

“Breastfed children perform better on intelligence tests, are less likely to be overweight or obese, and less prone to diabetes later in life. Women who breastfeed also have a reduced risk of breast and ovarian cancers.”

Leading the debate on its general principles, Ogun said the bill, which has three clauses, seeks to amend the Principal Act to make provision for the establishment of crèches in public and private workplaces for employees who are breastfeeding/nursing mothers, and for other related matters.

According to him, clause one is the enactment clause; clause two is the amendment clause of the Principal Act, while clause three is the citation.

He said the extant provisions of the Labour Act, which provides for four months of maternity leave for nursing mothers, may be insufficient for mothers to exclusively breastfeed their babies for up to six months as recommended.

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He, therefore, said the availability of crèches in workplaces would allow nursing mothers to resume work and still be able to breastfeed their babies as recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

The lawmaker added that the bill, when passed into law, would enhance the productivity of working-class nursing mothers as well as reduce the rate of infant mortality in the country.

“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 the 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. 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. Sule Presents N109.8bn 2022 Budget Estimate to State Assembly,” he said.

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