Employers can–and should–do more to ensure new mothers feel supported, empowered on the job.
According to a new survey from Byram Healthcare Centers, only 18% of working mothers who breastfeed know what rights they have in the workplace. More than half (52%) say they didn’t know that they are legally entitled to a room to pump/express milk for a year after giving birth, nor did they realize that this room must have shades or no window and a lock. Just 11% of respondents say they didn’t think they were entitled to any protections.
More than half (53%) of working moms surveyed say that their hours have been cut or workloads altered after the birth of their child, even though they didn’t ask for or want such changes. Many of these women also report that they have been embarrassed or frustrated when they have tried to pump or breastfeed during work. For instance, they say someone has walked in on them, made a rude comment, or asked them to stop or go somewhere else to pump.
Despite some concern by employers or managers that pumping takes women away from their duties, 96% of respondents say that they continue to work while they pump. Over half (55%) say they’ve checked email, 52% say they have handled a phone call or participated in a conference call, and 49% said they’ve made a to-do list. Two-thirds (62%) say they frequently eat lunch while they pump.
The results of this survey, said Judy Manning, vice president of marketing at Byram, demonstrate “just how critical access to breastfeeding equipment and support are for moms who plan to return to work.” She added, “Protecting the legal rights of breastfeeding women not only shows them that they are welcomed with open arms, but it levels the playing field.”
All 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico have laws that allow all women to breastfeed in any public or private location. The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) requires employers with 50 or more workers to provide most non-exempt employees with a reasonable time break and private space to pump or express milk. In addition to privacy, the room must provide access to running water and a refrigerator to store the milk. All health plans must cover breastfeeding equipment and supplies “for the duration of breastfeeding.” It is important to let working moms know this, as it can save them hundreds of dollars.