The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) amended the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) to require that employers provide nonexempt nursing mothers with break time and a sanitary, private space that is not a bathroom to pump milk at work. However, most U.S. employees are not aware of the law and many workplaces do not have the dedicated space to accommodate the new mandates, according to a poll commissioned by Workplace Options, a provider of employee support services.
The national employee survey, conducted March 4-6, 2011, revealed that:
• 57 percent of U.S. workers were not aware of the lactation support requirements (53 percent of women and 62 percent of men).
• Just over half of female respondents (52 percent) said they had access to a private, sanitary space to pump milk at their current workplace.
• Almost half of female respondents (49 percent) did not have access to flexible scheduling to take pumping breaks.
• Fewer than half of female respondents (47 percent) said they would feel comfortable talking to a manager about break time and pump space.
• If given access to break time and pump space, 63 percent of women would "definitely" and another 13 percent would "probably" continue to breastfeed after returning to work.
Importance for Job Seekers
The gap in awareness and access existed even though 69 percent of female respondents agreed that, if an employer offered lactation support, it would be an important factor in their decision to seek or accept employment from that employer. This was especially true for hourly workers.
In an effort to help employers recognize the importance of lactation support, the not-for-profit Corporate Voices for Working Families has published an updated version of its workplace lactation toolkit to help employers establish workplace lactation programs and comply with the FLSA's lactation-related provisions.
"Employers must recognize what tools new mothers need to achieve work/life balance," said Dean Debnam, CEO of Workplace Options. "New legislation is in place for nursing mothers in the workplace, but employers still need to find ways to support these employees in the office. They can start by providing private and sanitary spaces to pump breast milk."
SHRM Comments on Break Time for Nursing Mothers, About SHRM, March 2011
Breastfeeding Breaks: What is the definition of “a private place,” SHRM HR Q&As, July 2010
Nursing Mothers Get a Break in Health Care Law, HR News, April 2010
Viewpoint: Health Reform Law's Protections for Nursing Mothers Are Welcome but Vague, SHRM Online Benefits Discipline, April 2010
SHRM Online Benefits Discipline
SHRM Online Health Care Reform Resource Page