- Less than 20% of working, nursing mothers are aware of all the lactation-related protections they are entitled to at work, according to a survey conducted by Wakefield Research for Byram Healthcare Centers. Byram surveyed 1,000 working mothers in the U.S. with children ages two and younger who have breastfed recently or who breastfeed currently.
- Per Section 7 of the Fair Labor Standards Act, employers must provide a room for employees to pump or express breast milk for a year after the birth of a child, and this room must be shielded from public view and free from intrusion by coworkers or the public. However, only about half of the survey respondents (54%) knew they had a right to a windowless or shielded room for pumping, Byram found. Even fewer (42%) were aware that they had a right to a lock, Byram said.
- In addition, more than half of respondents (53%) said their employer cut their hours or altered their workload — without their consent — because they were new mothers. These moms were more likely to have had "someone walking in on them, making a rude comment or asking them to pump at a different time or place" than workers whose employers did not change their hours without warning, according to Byram. Virtually all the respondents (96%) said they multitask while they pump. Secondary tasks include checking work emails and conducting conference calls.
When working mothers don't know their rights, they are less likely to ask for what they are entitled to from an employer, Byram stressed in its statement about the study. And when employers are uninformed and don't accommodate these workers, it can lead to expensive lawsuits. For example, when a Texas behavioral health center employee quit after she was forced to pump in her car in a publicly accessible parking lot, she was awarded $22,000. A KFC worker was awarded $1.5 million after she was told to pump in a non-private office — where her supervisor worked while she pumped and co-workers watched through a window.
If workers don't have adequate space and break time to pump, it can snowball into a retention problem. Almost half of pregnant workers have considered leaving their organizations to take jobs in more lactation-friendly environments, an Aeroflow study revealed. Beyond furnishing a private space for expressing breast milk and enacting a breastfeeding policy compliant with both federal and state-level regulations, HR departments might keep mothers in mind when crafting engagement and retention strategies. Educating leadership is another way to improve the organization's overall inclusion of working mothers, experts have told HR Dive.
"There's still a ton of education that needs to happen in the workplace with the leadership, with HR," Christine Dodson, founder of lactation pod manufacturer Mamava, previously told HR Dive. "The culture companies are perpetuating around breastfeeding — women are still made to feel that they're getting a special accommodation, that they're getting too much. The education piece just needs to be talked about more.