Breastfeeding mother of premature baby awarded €2,500

Workplace Relations Commission hears paramedic’s complaint over transfer delay

File image of a woman breastfeeding her child. File photograph: Getty Images

File image of a woman breastfeeding her child. File photograph: Getty Images

 

A new mother has said it was “shameful and unfair” that her employer would not give her a work transfer to allow her to breastfeed her baby, who was born premature.

The woman, who is a paramedic working for the ambulance service, took a case to the Workplace Relations Commission seeking an order granting her a transfer to be near her home to allow her to breastfeed her baby boy.

Upset and shocked

The unnamed woman said travelling to her workplace involved a round trip of 290km, taking about four hours and 20 minutes each day. She told the commission hearing that the treatment of her, by her unidentified employer, was “shameful and unfair to her, and it paints a picture of a male-dominated workplace that shows little or no regard for the welfare of their post-pregnancy employees or their newborn children”.

She said she was upset and shocked by her employer’s handling of her situation, and claimed her employer denied her natural justice and fair process by taking almost seven months to deal with her request and grievance.

The commission heard the woman gave birth prematurely on December 30th, 2014, to her son, who weighed 4lb 3oz.

She said she decided to breastfeed her child on advice from her doctors. This was a decision that worked well and her child responded positively and started to develop.

The woman said she intended to breastfeed her child until he was two years old and she made her request for a work transfer three months before she was due back to work.

She has not returned to work since going on maternity leave in December 2014, after going on sick leave last November due to stress from the dispute. The woman remains on sick leave and her employers said they are very anxious to get her back to work.

The woman has been on the staff of her employer since 1999 – when she initially worked as a clerical officer close to her home – until her move to the ambulance service in 2008.

‘Not feasible’

She has been on a transfer panel for permanent transfer to her home area since 2009.

The adjudication officer at the commission, Sean Reilly, has ordered her employers to pay her €2,500 for the undue delay in dealing with the matter. He said the delay was unreasonable and unfair to the woman and caused her stress.

However, Mr Reilly said he could not recommend granting her a transfer to her own area as no vacancy currently existed.

He wrote: “In circumstances where there is no available position, vacancy or work available in the area to which the complainant seeks to transfer, it is not feasible or possible for me to recommend that she be so transferred and I must reject that element of the claim.”

He also concluded “in common with all of her colleagues, she is on a transfer list – at No 9 – and will have to wait until her turn comes up to fill any vacancy, she cannot expect to be treated differently or more favourably than any other employee on that list in that respect”.