A free toolkit to help employers reduce barriers to breastfeeding among their employees, especially those in hourly and low-wage positions, is available online.
The Corporate Voices for Working Families, which announced the launch of its toolkit Feb. 9, 2009, quotes a July 2008 Working Mother magazine survey that found 94 percent of the publication’s “100 Best Companies for Working Women” offer a workplace lactation program vs. 6 percent of all U.S. companies.
“It’s clear that workplace lactation programs benefit employers. When women breastfeed, babies and mothers may be healthier, [mothers] may miss less work time, and employee satisfaction and productivity can increase,” said Donna Klein, president and founder of Corporate Voices for Working Families, in a press release.
The downloadable guide, Workplace Lactation Programs: Good for Working Families, Good for Business, addresses barriers to lactation, such as a lack of privacy, and explains how organizations can overcome those barriers. It is available in English and Spanish and includes samples of employee handouts and paycheck inserts for employers to distribute, and a poster.
A lack of a private pumping environment that was friendly to lactation needs was one of three top physical barriers to workplace lactation, followed by an inflexible work schedule and lack of a separate refrigerator to store breast milk, according to a 2007 survey by the National Women’s Health Resource Center. The findings were based on a survey of 1,000 working mothers who had a child within two years prior to the poll.
The group advises employers to consider the following to help assess the need for a lactation program:
- What are your employees’ needs, and what is your workplace culture?
- Does the workplace culture allow breastfeeding mothers to feel comfortable to continue to breastfeed?
- What is the average age of the employees; what percentage are women; how many are mothers with infants or are likely to become mothers?
- Does your organization provide paid maternity leave, and if so, what is the average length of that leave?
- Does the workplace culture support job flexibility?
- Are supervisors and managers willing to have discussions about flexibility with mothers in your organization who breastfeed?
In its 2008 Benefits Survey of 996 HR professionals, the Society for Human Resource Management found that one-fourth of respondents said their organizations provided an on-site lactation/mother’s room; the trend is most prevalent among employers with 500 or more employees.
Some organizations have converted storage areas and supply closets into lactation areas, according to the Corporate Voices web site. It suggests that working time into the work day for lactation purposes could include having affected employees agree to shorten their daily lunch hour to make up for the lactation time, agree to work an additional hour each week for every three 20-minute lactation break, or assigning an employee to serve as a “floater” who covers employees on lactation breaks.
The Corporate Voices guide lists states that have laws related to breastfeeding in the workplace. Oregon, for example, requires any employer with 25 or more employees to provide rest periods and a private lactation area, not a restroom, for mothers who need to use lactation devices.
The toolkit can be found at http://www.corporatevoices.org/system/files/Lactation_Toolkit_Guidebook.pdf. It was developed in partnership with Abbot Nutrition, Ceridian; CVS Caremark; IBM Corporation; ICF International, Inc.; Knowledge Learning Corporation; LifeCare; Marriott International, Inc.; Metropolitan Life Insurance Co.; PNC Financial Services Group, Inc.; and The TJX Companies, Inc.
Lactation Accommodation: SHRM templates and tools