In the Workplace
Lactation Accommodation Laws in the Workplace
Returning to work after having a baby can be tough for any new parent, but it can be especially difficult for nursing parents. However, employers can play an important role in supporting breastfeeding. Creating a comfortable space and time for expressing milk at the workplace is not only smart for business and helpful for breastfeeding employees, it’s the law. Workplace lactation support is instrumental in helping moms continue the breastfeeding relationship and has a good return on investment for employers.
A quality lactation support program can reduce employee absenteeism, increase company loyalty and retain employees. Since 58% of new mothers are in the workforce in Clark County, it’s important for companies to understand the law and how they can accommodate the needs of breastfeeding employees.
Lactation support and rooms are not a “one-size-fits-all” business practice and can look different in each organization. It’s important for all businesses, big and small, to identify a private space and appropriate schedules to accommodate breastfeeding employees – regardless of their physical environment or type of business.
How can employers support breastfeeding families? At a minimum:
- Work with breastfeeding employees to identify a reasonable break schedule for expressing milk.
- Provide a comfortable, private space for expressing milk. If your workplace doesn’t have a space, work with the employee to identify a convenient space and work schedule to accommodate their needs.
Employers that want to go above and beyond the law can consider the following:
- Develop a lactation support policy and/or guidelines for employees. This makes your business practice clear and easy to communicate to staff.
- Create a private room that is dedicated to expressing milk or breastfeeding. Equip the room with a comfortable chair, sink, refrigerator, art and relaxing features, like a light dimmer or aromatherapy.
- Purchase a hospital-grade pump that can be shared by employees. Hospital grade pumps are safe to share and can help employees pump more efficiently. They can also help mothers better maintain their supply.
- Consider an Infant at Work policy. These policies typically allow parents to take their babies to work for the first six months to support breastfeeding, bonding and the transition back to work.
- Allow employees to pump on work time.
- Get employee feedback so you can improve the support or space.
SW WA Healthy Families can provide worksites with free technical assistance to create a breastfeeding-friendly environment, send us an email at Info@SWWashingtonHealthyFamilies.org or call us at 564.397.7312.