Earlier this week the national PUMP Act, introduced in Congress is 2021 and signed by President Biden on the last day of 2022, went into effect. The act closes loopholes in and otherwise clarifies the rules of the 2010 law that compelled employers to provide both time and a private non-bathroom space for pumping or nursing to lactating employees.
A win for babies
Local lactation advocates say the strengthened law is a big win for families and babies.
“The PUMP Act is a good step forward in supporting nursing and exclusively pumping parents,” says Seattle-based lactation consultant Catherine Fenner, IBCLC. “Having paid breaks to express milk, and having it apply to nearly every employee in the US is a clear message that we acknowledge the importance of nursing your baby and taking care of yourself during the birth year.”
Accommodations may increase long-term breast milk intake rates
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s 2022 Breastfeeding Report Card report, more than 80 percent of U.S. babies receive at least some breast milk, although only about half of them are still nursing or receiving breast milk by six months of age. In Washington State, nearly 94 percent of babies start out nursing and 68 percent are still getting breast milk at 6 months of age. That number drops to 47.4 percent by 12 months. Compared to other states, Washington has a high number of babies exclusively breastfed to 3 months (57 percent). The number of babies still being exclusively breastfed at 6 months is 29.5 percent.
But research published in the journal Womens Health Issues shows those percentages could increase with the supports mandated by the new law. Studies show that when working mothers have adequate time and space to pump, they are far more likely — 2.3 times as likely —than those without such access to continue exclusively breastfeeding to six months.
A win for businesses
Fenner says that employers accommodations benefit the employee, the baby, and the business.
“Employers that recognize the value of supporting their nursing and pumping employees already know about the increased employee retention, reduced hiring costs, fewer sick days, and happier, more loyal employees,” she says. “This helps their bottom line, improves employee satisfaction, and it just has to improve family satisfaction – striking the ever moving balance between caring about your job and caring for your family.”
Fenner adds: “This act is a step toward reducing parent stress and worry, reducing childhood obesity, childhood illness. And all that is a step toward a healthier society long term.
The U.S Breastfeeding Committee provides the following details about the PUMP ACT and what it means to lactating employees:
Does the PUMP Act change the Break Time for Nursing Mothers law?
Yes. The recently enacted PUMP for Nursing Mothers Act (“PUMP Act”) updates and closes several loopholes in the Break Time for Nursing Mothers law passed in 2010. The 2010 law required employers to provide reasonable break times and private, non-bathroom spaces for lactating employees to pump milk during the workday.
The new act expands the legal right to receive pumping breaks and private space to nearly 9 million more workers than those covered by the 2010 law., including teachers, registered nurses, farmworkers, and many others. It also makes it possible for an employee to file a lawsuit against an employer that violates the law and seek a monetary remedy in court. It also makes clear that pumping time counts as time worked when calculating minimum wage — and it counts as overtime if an employee is not completely relieved from their work duties during the pumping break.
Which employers much comply?
Employers of all sizes are required to provide a reasonable amount of break time and a clean, private space for lactating workers to express milk for up to one year following the birth of the employee’s child. The pumping space cannot be a bathroom. These protections apply regardless of the employee’s gender.
Employers that have fewer than 50 employees are covered by the law and must provide break time and space; however, they may be excused from complying when providing the required break time and space would impose a significant difficulty or expense (called an “undue hardship”). Undue hardship is extremely rare. In almost all situations, employers with fewer than 50 employees must provide the required break time and space.
Which workers are covered
Nearly all workers are now covered by the federal lactation break time and space requirements outlined under the law.
Who isn’t covered
Airline flight crewmembers (flight attendants and pilots) remain uncovered by the law. Airline employees who are not crewmembers are covered and have the same right to receive break time and space as employees in other industries. Many crewmembers – as well as workers in all industries – have a right to lactation break time and private space under other federal and state laws or through their employer’s internal policies. They may be able to receive break time and space as a reasonable accommodation under the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act when that law goes into effect on June 27, 2023.
Where to get more information:
Information on the law: The Department of Labor is responsible for the enforcement of the law. Find information and guidance on the Break Time for Nursing Mothers webpage.
Examples of how to make it work: The Office on Women’s Health hosts the Supporting Nursing Moms at Work website, a searchable resource featuring examples of time and space solutions from businesses across the country.
Help understanding or enforcing the law: A Better Balance and Center for WorkLife Law are nonprofit organizations that host free and confidential legal helplines where an employee can get answers to their questions:
- Contact the Center for WorkLife Law helpline by emailing email@example.com or calling (415) 703-8276.
- Contact A Better Balance by calling 1-833-NEED-ABB or using the online form.
More at Seattle’s Child:
To Pump or not to Pump? Real talk on collecting milk
Why does breastmilk reduce the chance of allergies?