Dear PAO,

I am planning to start a home barbershop business. I lost my job last year. Being a stay-at-home father, I had to cut my sons’ and nephews’ hair since they have not left the house due to the health crisis. Then, some of our male neighbors also asked me to cut their hair and those of their sons. Now, I am slowly fixing the small space beside our lot to make it into my barbershop. I am also going to hire a couple of my male former co-workers who also lost their jobs last year. Given that the space is very small, do I still need to provide a breastfeeding area? I will only cater to male customers since I do not know how to cut ladies’ hair. In my former employment, there is a breastfeeding area, and my supervisor said it is required. Does this apply in all kinds of businesses?

Alexis

Dear Alexis,

As a general rule, all facilities and establishments must provide for a breastfeeding area or a lactation station. Republic Act (RA) 10028, otherwise known as the “Expanded Breastfeeding Promotion Act of 2009” states that:

“Sec. 11. Establishment of Lactation Stations. - It is hereby mandated that all health and non-health facilities, establishments or institutions shall establish lactation stations. The lactation stations shall be adequately provided with the necessary equipment and facilities, such as: lavatory for hand-washing, unless there is an easily-accessible lavatory nearby; refrigeration or appropriate cooling facilities for storing expressed breastmilk; electrical outlets for breast pumps; a small table; comfortable seats; and other items, the standards of which shall be defined by the Department of Health. The lactation station shall not be located in the toilet.

“x x x”

However, a private establishment can apply for an exemption. Such exemption is renewable every two years, as provided for under Rule III, Implementing Rules and Regulations of RA 10028, viz:

“Section 8. Exemption - A private establishment may apply for an exemption to establish lactation station at the DOLE Regional Office having jurisdiction over said establishment. An application for exemption may be granted by the DOLE Regional Director upon determination that the establishment of a lactation station is not feasible or necessary due to the peculiar circumstances of the workplace taking into account, among others, the number of women employees, physical size of the establishment and average number of women who will use the facility. Due substantiation shall be made by the employer to support the application for exemption. The exemption granted by DOLE shall be for a renewal period of two years.

“x x x

“In connection thereto, Department Order No. 143, Series of 2015 of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) states that an establishment applying for exemption must meet the following conditions, and provided that no female clients visit/transact with the establishment, viz:

“(a) establishments with no nursing or lactating employee;

“(b) establishments with no pregnant employee.” (Section 2, Id.)

Taking the foregoing into consideration, we believe that the amount of space you have for your business, whether it is big or small, is not the primordial consideration as to whether you should provide a breastfeeding area or not. Rather, the factors to be taken into account are whether there will be female clients who will visit/transact with your barbershop, whether there will be nursing or lactating employees, and whether there will be pregnant employees. If there is none, then you may opt to apply for exemption. Said application must be filed at the nearest Field Office of the DoLE having jurisdiction of your intended establishment. (Section 3, Id.) The DoLE Regional Office will issue the certificate of exemption in your favor once it determines that your application is in order and you are indeed eligible for such exemption. (Section 6, Id.)

We hope that we were able to answer your queries. This advice is based solely on the facts you have narrated and our appreciation of the same. Our opinion may vary when other facts are changed or elaborated.

Editor’s note: Dear PAO is a daily column of the Public Attorney’s Office. Questions for Chief Acosta may be sent to [email protected]