Many companies have a lactation program that meets the federal law, including having a place to pump that is not the bathroom and break time to allow women to pump. They may also provide information on breastfeeding resources in the area and company resource groups. However, as local and state laws on pumping in the workplace include specific details, such as how close a mother’s room needs to be to each employee, or what must be provided, companies find they need to update their program to be in compliance and to stay competitive. Here are areas where you can improve your company’s lactation program and keep your moms happy!
Let Your Employees Decide How Long to Breastfeed While the federal law requires pumping breaks for mothers up to 1 year of the baby’s life, some states such as California do not set an upper limit. An employee may continue to pump for several years after the baby is born. Letting mom and baby decide when is the right time to wean reduces stress on both of them which in turn is beneficial for the company.
Makeover Your Mother’s Room While companies in many states are only required to provide a room that is not the bathroom for pumping, improving your mother’s room makes the space more comfortable and shows moms that you want them to feel supported at work. In some cases (such as in San Francisco) it also ensures your company is in compliance with local laws. Here’s how to give your mother’s room a boost!
Ensure that your mother’s room is 500 feet or closer to the employee workspace it is designed to serve. Make sure it is roomy enough to fit a chair and a table for pumping, about 50 square feet or bigger.
Have a chair and table large enough for pumping. Don’t use rocking chairs; use a chair where a mom has support sitting up while pumping. If the room is being shared by multiple employees, consider an adjustable chair to accommodate employees of different heights.
Have a refrigerator for milk storage and a sink with hot and cold running water nearby. It is ideal if the refrigerator and sink are in the mother’s room.
The room should be safe, clean, and free of any toxic chemicals or odors. The room should only be accessible to mothers and should lock from the inside. Code or badge access is ideal.
If your mother’s room is a multi-use room, ensure that all your employees are notified that it is a designated Lactation location. Priority use of the room needs to be given to a mother needing to pump milk to avoid a violation. Have good signage that the room may be used as a mother’s room.
Consider purchasing or renting a hospital-grade pump for your mother’s room. Having a hospital-grade pump available for your moms a win-win benefit to both the employees and the company because it reduced the time it takes to pump!
Have extra breastpump accessories available including cleaning supplies to clean the pump and attachment kit parts. Have breastmilk bags on hand for mothers to use if they need extra storage to bring their milk home.
Communicate Your Policy Make sure your employees know what your company’s policy is for accommodating breastfeeding mothers. Include the policy in your employee handbook. If all your company’s info is online, make sure finding the policy and information about your company’s lactation program is searchable or has links. You can go a step further and make sure your corporate lactation program is included in Q&A sessions or benefits updates. Ensure that your managers know what your company’s policy is so they can communicate with their team.
Track Your Mother’s Room Usage Keep track of the usage of your mother’s room. Room usage or entry logs can help determine if the room is used often. This is valuable information to let you know if your company has enough rooms for your employees. In some areas of the country, such as San Francisco, companies are required to keep records of employee requests for lactation accommodation for 3 years. Knowing what areas have more usage also helps ensure that the company has a sufficient number of rooms so employees can be productive instead of having to spend time waiting for a room to be available.
Have An Escalation Path If an employee has problems with the mother’s room, such as the pump not working or the refrigerator not keeping milk cold, there should be a way for the employee to communicate this so it gets resolved. In addition, provide an escalation path if an employee is encountering difficulty with co-workers or managers regarding their rights to pump milk. Make sure it is a way mothers can bring up issues without fear of retaliation and your company follows through in resolving them. Breastfeeding laws specify fines for breaking or not following the law. This includes workplace discrimination to working breastfeeding mothers. The federal penalty is $1,000 per violation, California has a penalty of an additional $100 per violation, and San Francisco has a penalty of $500 per violation. If you are in San Francisco that could be $1,600 total per violation!
If it has been a while since your company adopted a lactation program, it may be time to review your offerings to make sure you are in compliance with the law, and competitive for retaining employees. Contact Healthy Horizons Corporate Services to review and update your company’s lactation program!