How to provide break time for nursing mothers
By: Michael Henckel
Publication: BottomLine Benefits and Compensation Newsletter
Date Posted: 03/15/2017
When the Affordable Care Act became law, it revised the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) by requiring employers to provide reasonable break times for nursing mothers. The accommodation is required for up to one year after a child’s birth. Employees do not need to work a specific number of hours or meet any requirements to be eligible for accommodation.
Employers must consider several factors to make sure they satisfy the law’s requirements, including the scheduling and location of breaks for nursing mothers, as well as how employees are compensated during those breaks.
The Department of Labor expects that nursing mothers will typically need breaks to express milk two to three times during an eight-hour shift, and that longer shifts may require additional breaks.
Employers should keep in mind that the frequency and time required to express milk varies from woman to woman. Employers should work individually with each nursing mother when determining a reasonable break schedule.
Beyond the time required to express milk, employers should assess the following for each employee needing the accommodation:
- The location of the lactation space and its proximity to the employee’s work area.
- The availability of a sink for washing.
- The location of a refrigerator or personal storage area for the milk.
Employers must provide a private, locking space, other than a bathroom, for nursing mothers to use. The area must contain a place to sit and a flat surface (other than the floor) on which to place a pump. Ideally, the space will have access to electricity to plug in an electric pump.
Employers are not required to establish a permanent room for nursing mothers, but may select an appropriate and available space as the need arises.
Pay during breaks
Under the FLSA, nursing mothers are not required to be paid during nursing breaks, unless they coincide with regularly scheduled paid break periods. In such cases, an employee who uses the breaks to express milk must be paid. On the other hand, if regular breaks are not already provided, or if an employee needs breaks beyond those regularly scheduled, these additional break times need not be paid.
Develop a policy
A lactation accommodation policy can help supervisors and managers understand and discuss employee protections with mothers returning to work. The policy should also help the returning employee know what to expect, which should ease her transition back into the workplace.
While exempt employees are not entitled to lactation breaks under the FLSA, they may be covered by state laws, and your policy may certainly include them.
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