Affinity takes strong steps to make breastfeeding easier for parents and team members
Early childhood education and care (ECEC) provider Affinity Education Group (AEG) has achieved national accreditation status by the Australian Breastfeeding Association (ABA) for the second year in a row.
“The journey to achieve and then maintain national accreditation by the ABA has been extremely positive for our employees, centre leadership teams and our enrolled families,” said Linda Carroll, Chief People Officer.
AEG currently has more than 220 centres in its national network, with over 4,000 female employees, and more than 13,000 enrolled families.
“Our approach has always been breastfeeding friendly, but to achieve accreditation with the ABA we took a bespoke approach to review the facilities and practices in each centre in collaboration with their centre management teams,” Ms Carroll explained.
Adjustments were made to the environments and spaces set up at each centre, such as upgrading armchairs or providing privacy screens, and the provider also reviewed and updated national policies to ensure that the provider has “a consistent and supportive commitment to enabling breastfeeding, bottle feeding and pumping for our educators and parents.”
The most critical aspect, she continued, has been to ensure that employees of AEG “feel genuinely supported when breastfeeding at work”.
“We allow our team to choose between unpaid breaks or utilising paid carers leave in addition to their standard paid breaks so they can have as much time as they need during a working day to breastfeed their babies.”
“Within the past year more than 370 employees have returned from maternity leave nationally. Their average time on maternity leave is between six to nine months. During that time, we stay in contact and reassure them that they will be supported when returning to work, including any decision to continue breastfeeding while working,” she said.
For Centre Manager Amanda Brown, returning to work at Papilio Early Learning Baulkham Hills with baby Michael was made a little easier thanks to the support she received.
“It’s been seamless,” she said. “While on maternity leave, I put a plan in place with my Area Manager before I returned to work, which enabled me to take the time to pump and store milk before Michael started attending care here.”
“Now he has started attending care full time in our centre at 10 months, I’m able to feed him in the comfy area and put him to sleep, and then he’s taken care of wonderfully by our nursery room educators.”
For Assistant Centre Manager Rikki Ekman, who returned to work part time at Aussie Kindies Early Learning Stawell with five month old Tex, having the support and understanding of coworkers has made all the difference.
“As part of the requirements of being a licenced early education provider, we need to maintain ratios at all times for the number of qualified people working in each room with children, so when Tex needs a feed, it requires my Manager or someone else to swap with me so I can go into the room and feed him, and they do it every time with a smile which I appreciate so much,” she said.
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