Two new laws strengthen protections for pregnant and nursing employees in the workplace: the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA) and the Providing Urgent Maternal Protections for Nursing Mothers Act (PUMP). In this week’s HR Query, we’re highlighting what you need to know to make sure organizations stay compliant.
The PWFA took effect June 27, 2023, and not only covers any private or public employers with at least 15 employees but also allows pregnant workers to receive reasonable accommodations at work related to pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions.
“You should develop an interactive process to determine the reasonable accommodations available to qualified employees under the PWFA,” Grace Fletcher, an associate at Mitchell Williams, recently stated in an article. “Although an accommodation doesn’t have to be made if it would cause an undue hardship to the operation of the business, it’s important to keep an open mind during the interactive process.”
The PUMP Act took effect April 28, 2023, and requires employers to provide employees with reasonable break time to express milk and a private place to do so.
Carmen Bryant, VP of Marketing at Wizehire, an online recruiting platform, notes these new legislations have significant implications for small businesses.
“Business owners, especially small business owners, should see it not just as a legal obligation, but as an opportunity to support your nursing employees in a meaningful way and to attract, retain, and engage top talent,” she shared with HR Daily Advisor. “It’s more important than ever to create a nurturing environment where nursing mothers feel safe and comfortable to express milk privately and without interruption.”
Read on to learn do’s and don’ts for complying with the PUMP Act and the PWFA, what organizations can do to prepare, and more.
Why are these new laws game-changers for women in the workplace?
CB: This new law is a step in the right direction. Breastfeeding is a natural and transformative experience for new mothers but can also be challenging when navigating a return to work. By providing nursing mothers with the support they need to continue breastfeeding, we can create a workplace culture that puts into practice what many companies have espoused: giving mothers more flexibility, more empathy, and more financial security. This is not just good for our employees but also good for our businesses. Happy and healthy employees are more productive and engaged, which can ultimately benefit our bottom line.
And while women’s employment has recovered to near pre-pandemic levels, women with children under 5 years old have seen employment levels recover more slowly than mothers of school-age children. Specifically, for many small businesses, hiring remains one of the, if not the, top pain points for their business. The PUMP Act not only benefits nursing mothers but also expands the talent pipeline for businesses and creates more engaged teams.
What are the do’s and don’ts for businesses complying with the new acts?
CB: Here are some do’s and don’ts for small business owners to comply with the new acts:
- Allow adequate break time for nursing mothers to express milk, and be flexible to meet their needs.
- Communicate with your employees about their rights to express milk in the workplace, and show them you value their health and well-being.
- Update your company policies to reflect the new laws, and demonstrate your commitment to supporting nursing mothers.
- Don’t make nursing mothers feel ashamed or embarrassed about expressing milk in the workplace.
- Don’t discriminate against employees who need to express milk, and don’t refuse to provide a private space for them to do so.
- Don’t penalize nursing employees for taking breaks to express milk. Instead, show them you support them and value their contributions to your business.
What should business owners do to prepare?
CB: To prepare for compliance with the PUMP Act, here are some steps you can take:
- Review the new laws, and educate yourself on your obligations.
- Create a supportive workplace culture that values the health and well-being of nursing mothers.
- Ensure there’s a comfortable and private space, other than a bathroom, for nursing mothers to express milk.
- Consider offering lactation support programs, such as providing lactation consultants or breast pump rentals.
- Communicate with your employees about their options, and demonstrate your commitment to supporting nursing mothers.