Creating a Lactation Accommodation policy

As the emphasis on inclusive workplaces grows, it’s no surprise that lactation accommodation laws are a part of this equation. Lactation accommodations have been federally required since 2010 when the Affordable Care Act amended the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) to provide protection for employees who need to express breast milk.

In recent years, more states and locations have developed their own specific laws, so it’s important you provide nursing employees everything they need to know about lactation accommodations in the workplace.

Key points to include

As an employer, you should ensure that breastfeeding employees understand their rights regarding lactation accommodations. While federal law requires that employers provide breaks to express breast milk in a private location, some states have even greater protections. No matter your location, it’s important your policy includes the basics as mandated by federal law. At a minimum, nursing employees will be given:

  • (1) Reasonable time to express breast milk for one year after the child’s birth, and
  • (2) A dedicated space that (other than a bathroom) that is shielded from view and free from intrusion.

To further clarify these two items, consider incorporating the following information:

  • Definition of “reasonable time”
  • The relationship between lactation breaks and standard meal/rest breaks
  • Details regarding pay
  • Location of the lactation space and/or who to contact for details

In addition to the federal requirements, it’s important that you provide information related to any state or local policies that protect your breastfeeding employees. State breastfeeding laws may offer greater coverage, including:

  • Detailed requirements related to the lactation space
  • Lactation accommodations beyond the one-year federal minimum
  • More expansive pay protections

Depending on your company and its geography, you may choose to adopt a lactation accommodation policy that is all-encompassing rather than including many different geographic policies. The National Conference of State Legislatures has developed a comprehensive guide to breastfeeding laws.

Lastly, be sure to cover how to request lactation accommodations so there are no barriers to inclusivity.

Why it matters

Without stepping up onto the soapbox, here’s why it matters: it’s time working women are valued as much as men. In 2020, women made 84 percent of what men earned. The gender pay gap has become part of a greater dialogue, and women are more than ready for workplace equity.

Your lactation accommodation policy can illustrate that your company realizes the importance of women in the workplace. That said, before you dive into the specifics of what your policy does or does not allow, make your stance known. As with all handbook policies, if you START off with the why that drives the policy, your employees are more likely to continue reading.

Here’s a sample of how you can introduce your lactation accommodation policy:

We are committed to providing our employees with a welcoming and inclusive work environment. Motivated by our commitment to create an equitable workplace, we support our breastfeeding employees and provide lactation accommodations in accordance with this policy.

What’s trending

In 2021, an impressive 71.2 percent of mothers with children under age 18 were working or looking for work. As a result, it’s become increasingly important that employers provide flexible benefits that attract and retain working mothers.

Beyond the traditional benefits of healthcare and parental leave, here are some ways you can position yourself as a company that welcomes — and truly values — working mothers.

  • Prioritize and promote diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives
  • Ensure your leadership team reflects a commitment to women
  • Embrace flexible working arrangements
  • Provide childcare benefits and educational opportunities
  • Emphasize communication and compassion in the workplace

This isn’t a one-and-done conversation but instead should be an ongoing dialogue. It’s critical that you provide a forum where women can voice concerns — and, more importantly, that you follow through on the information you learn.

Additional notes

Link to relevant handbook policies, such as:

While you’re perfecting your handbook, check out some other Blissbook content focused on policy creation:

Drew Dotson

Drew Dotson

Drew enjoys eating cheese, cuddling with dogs, doing puzzles, and watching sports. She is passionate about raising awareness (and funds) for cystic fibrosis. Can't get enough info about Drew Dotson?


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