Is Your Business Accommodating Breastfeeding in the Workplace?
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Is Your Business Accommodating Breastfeeding in the Workplace?

In spite of the intensive coverage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act signed into law last spring, many employers have overlooked a section that benefits breastfeeding mothers in the workplace. The federal labor law requires employers to provide mothers with “reasonable break time” and a private, non-bathroom location to express breastmilk during the workday (up until the child’s first birthday).

What’s happening with the new labor law that protects nursing mothers?
States also have “breastfeeding at work” laws
Why employee breastfeeding rights matter
What employers need to know and do to comply

What’s happening with the new labor law that protects nursing mothers?

The answer is: very little. And unfortunately, the lack of awareness is also shared by employees. In a recent poll commissioned by Workplace Options, 57% of workers admitted to not knowing about the new law. Yet, 63% of respondents agreed that if an employer offered lactation support, they’d be more willing to work for that employer. This is especially true for hourly employees.

States also have “breastfeeding at work” laws

Approximately half the states also have state labor laws requiring breaks for nursing mothers. Under the new federal labor law, employers must comply with the standard that is more favorable to the employee. Some states require that breaks for expressing milk be paid, for example, while others require that breaks be provided to nursing mothers until their babies are two or three years old.

Why employee breastfeeding rights matter

The takeaway is to provide adequate workplace accommodations for breastfeeding moms. “Employers must recognize what tools new mothers need to achieve work-life balance,” said Dean Debnam, chief executive officer of Workplace Options. “New legislation is in place for nursing mothers in the workplace, but employers still need to find ways to support these employees in the office.”

What employers need to know and do to comply

In order to allow employees to take advantage of the many health benefits of breastfeeding, you may wish to consider drafting a written policy on breastfeeding and expressing breast milk in the workplace. The policy should include things such as:

  • Flexible work schedules to provide time for expression of milk
  • Supplying of an accessible location allowing privacy (e.g., shielded from view and free from intrusion from coworkers and the public, a lock on the door)
  • Access to a nearby clean and safe water source and a sink for washing hands and rinsing out any breast-pump equipment
  • Access to hygienic/refrigerated storage alternatives for the mother to store her breast milk

 

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