There’s a good chance that at some time in your career you’ll have an employee give birth to a baby, and return to work. If your employee is breastfeeding, depending on the laws of your state you may be required to make specific accommodations for you employee. If your company has 50 or more employees, you’ll be required to follow the Federal Workplace Pumping Law:
Section 7(r) of the Fair Labor Standards Act – Break Time for Nursing Mothers Provision
Effective March 23, 2010, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act amended the FLSA to require employers to provide a nursing mother reasonable break time to express breast milk after the birth of her child. The amendment also requires that employers provide a place for an employee to express breast milk.
Section 7 of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (29 U.S.C. 207) is amended by adding at the end the following:
An employer shall provide—
a reasonable break time for an employee to express breast milk for her nursing child for 1 year after the child’s birth each time such employee has need to express the milk; and
a place, other than a bathroom, that is shielded from view and free from intrusion from coworkers and the public, which may be used by an employee to express breast milk.
An employer shall not be required to compensate an employee receiving reasonable break time under paragraph (1) for any work time spent for such purpose.
An employer that employs less than 50 employees shall not be subject to the requirements of this subsection, if such requirements would impose an undue hardship by causing the employer significant difficulty or expense when considered in relation to the size, financial resources, nature, or structure of the employer’s business.
Nothing in this subsection shall preempt a State law that provides greater protections to employees than the protections provided for under this subsection.
Regardless of your state’s regulation or your company size, supporting your breastfeeding employee is the right thing to do- and you always want to do the right thing. Here are some practical ways you can support your employee who is breastfeeding:
1. Understand their needs: New moms are often anxious leaving their baby in the care of a family member, nanny, or daycare- no matter how committed to her career she is. By providing the time and space to pump, you’ll decrease additional anxiety and concern your employee has about caring for her baby because then she’ll be able to provide milk for her baby, even when she’s away at work. By reducing your employee’s stress, she’ll be a more engaged employee.
2. Schedule times to pump: Your employee will need to pump 2-3 x during the work day. These pump times can be incorporated into your employees schedule, so they are expected and non-negotiable. This will take away stress and concern from your employee so she doesn’t need to constantly think about when she can pump. Once her pump sessions are scheduled, she can focus more clearly and productively on her work tasks.
3. Provide a private room for pumping (that’s not a bathroom): No one wants to worry about getting interrupted when pumping. Help your employee out by providing a private, clean room for pumping, ideally with a door that locks. Providing a comfortable chair, and end table will help your employee’s comfort, as she’ll likely be multitasking while pumping. Access running water and a mini fridge would be added bonuses.
4. Offer to ship breast milk home during business trips: If you require your employee to travel, and she is currently breastfeeding- then offer to ship the milk she pumps home. This will help your employee alleviate the stress and concern of creating a stash of breast milk for the duration of the trip. Companies such as Milk Stork provide this service.
5. Create a culture of support: Many moms feel guilty for all the pump sessions they need to schedule within a day. By creating a supportive work environment, and getting her team on board around her schedule needs, you’ll greatly help your employee’s comfort level.
Returning to work after giving birth is hard- but with the understanding and support of her workplace, mothers can make a smooth transition. By having the time and space each day to express breast milk in a non-stressful manner your employee will greatly improve her engagement and attention. There’s enough stress new mothers face, and you have the ability to decrease it even more by providing a comfortable work environment for her pumping needs.