Should your workplace have a private lactation room?

| March 13, 2017
Although it’s been a requirement under the Affordable Care Act since 2010, some employers remain in the dark as to their responsibility for providing private lactation rooms for employees. What’s a lactation room, exactly? According to the ACA, it is “a place, other than a bathroom, that is shielded from view and free from intrusion from coworkers and the public” for breastfeeding mothers to pump breast milk.
We’ve gathered the guidelines on whether or not your particular company needs a lactation room, what such a room must include, and what standards you should consider when creating and maintaining such a space.  (For a faster rundown, see our quick reference guide here.)
lactation room

Lactation rooms should be private spaces with a door that locks from the inside containing a chair, table, and electrical outlet.  From K2 Space.

Which companies need lactation rooms?

Most of them! Unless your company employs fewer than 50 workers, it will need to provide a private space for new mothers to pump. And even if your company is a small one, with 49 or fewer workers, it will need to prove that providing such a space presents undue hardship.

What are some benefits to providing lactation rooms?

Although the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding babies for at least the first six months, this can be difficult or impossible for women without a private space onsite at the office. As the Society for Human Resource Management notes, just 53 percent of female workers are aware of the law’s lactation requirements; yet, if provided with breaks and privacy space, 63 percent of women would “definitely” — and another 13% would “probably” — continue to breastfeed after their return to work.
Including a comprehensive lactation room is also a smart decision for businesses looking to offer additional benefits to a growing part of the workforce: women of childbearing age.

How can my company create a lactation room?

The government’s guidelines are fairly simple: “A nursing mother’s room must be functional, with a private space with a place to sit and a flat surface, other than the floor, to place the breast pump and other supplies… [Rooms] should provide access to electricity for the use of a breast pump, as well as good lighting, a comfortable temperature, and proper ventilation. Further, a room for nursing mothers should be clean and agencies should provide cleaning wipes and paper towels.”
Columbia University provides some helpful tips on arranging a basic lactation room:
  •  Provide a door that locks from the inside, with either a “coded keypad or other arranged access to the room.”
  • Outfit the room – which should not be a bathroom – with a comfortable, easy-to-clean chair sized for the average woman, as well as an electrical outlet (for plugging in a breast pump), and a table located in front of the chair.

Companies seeking to offer greater accommodations may consider offering a sink in the room or nearby, as well as an assigned employee to clean and supply the room. An even more complete room might offer the following features: an in-room sink, a hospital-grade breast pump, a small refrigerator for milk storage, a clock, and “soft light, pictures, and decorations that encourage relaxation,” suggest Columbia’s guidelines.

Is there a size requirement for the lactation room?

No, there is no size requirement, nor is the space required to be permanent.

Are there any other requirements?

Under the ACA, employers must also provide adequate break times for pumping: “a reasonable break time to express milk for one year after her child’s birth each time such employee has need to express breast milk.”

Where can employers learn more?

Check out the U.S. Office of Personnel Management’s guidelines: Guide for Establishing a Federal Nursing Mother’s Program.

Where can mothers learn more?

Learn more online via the United States Breastfeeding Committee, which provides information on break time, breastfeeding tips, advice for what to do if your employer won’t comply, and a wealth of additional helpful information.

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Category: Office courtesy

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