Quick look: The newly enacted PUMP for Nursing Mothers Act normalizes breastfeeding in the workplace and makes accommodations a requirement for employers. As a result, brokers are being looked upon for guidance by their SMB clients and are partnering with PEOs for extra support.
As Mother’s Day approaches, what better time to reflect on giving working mothers what they need to succeed? Finding a quiet space and adequate break time to pump at work has been a significant challenge for breastfeeding mothers. Many times women are left to their own devices when securing a private spot.
The problem has become so widespread, the Biden Administration passed a bipartisan law – Providing Urgent Maternal Protections (PUMP) for Nursing Mothers Act – which was officially enacted at the beginning of this year. Simply referred to as the PUMP Act, the legislation is a momentous step in protecting nursing mothers wanting to breastfeed in the workplace. It expands upon the Break Time for Nursing Mothers Act of 2010, which created workplace protections for working mothers, but did not enforce requirements.
Per the PUMP Act, employers are now required to provide “a place, other than a bathroom, that is shielded from view and free from intrusion from coworkers and the public, which may be used by an employee to express breast milk,” as well as “reasonable break time” for employees to pump for up to one year after the birth of their child. Therefore, setting up a designated lactation area is a must-have accommodation versus a nice-to-have afterthought.
As with other legislation taking effect this year, certain small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) may be exempt or wonder how the regulations affect them. Brokers provide an extra advantage by working with a professional employer organization (PEO) to ensure their clients are in compliance and have the guidance they need to initiate and adapt well to the changes.
Broker guidance for SMB clients
As of February 27, 2023, the U.S. The Department of Labor issued guidance regarding employer compliance for the PUMP Act to make employees and employers aware of these new protections. The break time requirements do not apply to SMB employers with fewer than 50 employees only “if the employer can demonstrate compliance with the provision would impose an undue hardship.”
When employers do not follow the requirements, employees may explore legal remedies to address any related violations. Specifically, if an employer has not indicated an intention to provide a private space to pump or has violated the break time requirement for breastfeeding, employees may file an immediate lawsuit. The employee must notify the employer of such filing, and the employer then has 10 days to comply.
The enforcement is an important addition to previous legislation, especially since nearly 60% of women report their employers do not provide the room or break access. Additionally, under the Fair and Labor Standards Act (FLSA), when an employee uses break time at work to express breast milk, they must completely be relieved from duty or paid during the break time.
SMBs should keep in mind breaks will vary depending on the needs of the nursing employee and child. And there will be different frequencies and durations establishing the “reasonable time” necessary to set up and clean the breast pump as well as express breast milk. Therefore, workplace policies must be clear and consistent to accommodate individual needs.
Setting up a workplace lactation room
Though relied on in the past, a public bathroom stall or an unused storage closet aren’t adequate lactation rooms, and certainly don’t fit legal standards. Creating a lactation room will be determined on the amount of office space available and where a room can be set up, but privacy and comfort are the two most important factors when determining the design. A few, simple guidelines of what to offer include a:
- Single occupancy relaxation space which can be locked from the inside
- Comfortable chair with access near an electrical outlet to plug in a breast pump
- Sink in or near the room with soap, paper towels, cleaning wipes, and hand sanitizer
- Small refrigerator to store breast milk
It may also be beneficial to first conduct a short employee survey or conversation to receive feedback regarding room setup. This allows employees to speak on the particular needs mothers may have in any given organization.
Compliance as a commitment to cultural change
Legal compliance aside, customized benefits have been a pressing topic over the past several months, and working mothers, especially, value company leaders who address their specific needs. In fact, research shows women leaders are 1.5 times more likely than men leaders to leave their jobs because they want more flexibility, and commitment to employee well-being and DEI. Investing in the space, time, and attention to uphold the PUMP Act is necessary for compliance. It also showcases the importance of maintaining an inclusive workplace which helps SMBs retain and attract today’s top workers.
Why PEO brokers gain an extra edge
In addition to sharing general regulations guidance with SMB clients, PEO brokers can turn to their HR resources for their extended knowledge and expertise. After all, the PUMP Act is not the only new legislation taking effect in 2023, and SMB leaders need to verify they are up to speed.
Fortunately, a PEO like ExtensisHR provides tailored solutions covering all areas of HR, payroll, benefits, and compliances needs. To help SMBs create a compliant and competitive environment, ExtensisHR provides:
Risk and compliance services
New and updated federal, state, and local legislation is passed every year, and requires HR expertise to minimize risks and tackle any related issues as soon as they arise. Reliable support keeps SMBs on track so company leaders can focus on managing employee satisfaction and growth.
Personalized benefit plans
ExtensisHR’s team of HR professionals skip the cookie-cutter options and deliver personalized plans. This ensures each SMB’s expressed needs are accounted for when reviewing compliance and creating a competitive benefit strategy.
With changes happening so quickly, enabling remote technology has become a necessity to support streamlined communication. ExtensisHR’s proprietary HR technology gives SMB leaders secure management of all critical HR tasks from anywhere, at any time.
The workplace is constantly evolving, and companies must keep pace or may find their efforts are too little too late. PEO brokers can create a bridge between clients and the HR resources they need to make effective business decisions.
We support brokers in building and growing their SMB portfolio. Contact ExtensisHR today and learn how our services can benefit your clients.