We at RGS wish you well in the New Year. We hope the following practical ideas on how to approach the new lactation accommodation requirements, effective January 1, will smooth your transition into 2020.
Expanded Lactation Accommodation Requirements – (SB 142): Employers are currently required to provide break time and spaces for lactation. This new law expands employees’ rights and will require planning and revision of your current policy. If you haven’t already read all about it, the following article is an excellent overview from Liebert Cassidy Whitmore: https://www.lcwlegal.com/news/lactation-accommodation-requirements-expand-in-california-jan-1-2020
For your consideration, RGS’ HR Advisors offer the following implementation ideas, followed by a sample policy and a policy summary for your agency.
- In general, consider having a conversation similar to an interactive process about what works to meet the needs of your employee, as well as the organization. A supportive and fair conversation with your employee about how best to jointly navigate this temporary situation is likely to be effective….and check back in from time to time to be sure that the solution(s) you agreed to are in fact, working out.
- “Reasonable” break time is undefined. We suggest that employers discuss requests with employees when received and start with a benchmark of 20-30 minutes. This is consistent with U.S. Breastfeeding Committee guidance, and a shared understanding of what is reasonable can prevent a lot of conflict! Please note that this is NOT an enforcement standard, as individual biology and needs vary; however, it does provide both supervisors and employees with some expectations to guide scheduling and work productivity expectations.
- “Close proximity” is also undefined. The architecture of the workspace, stage of breastfeeding, mobility of the employee, and more, can all play a role in achieving a successful outcome of “close proximity”. For example, an official “lactation room” at the other end of the building and on another floor may not be as helpful to the nursing mother’s comfort (and work productivity!) as the ability to use a private office or conference room just a few steps down the hall. Flexibility is essential!
- Make the space user-friendly. Furnish the lactation space comfortably and provide some “clean up” wipes—breast milk and equipment need a clean environment. This is not the place to house rejected or worn-out office furnishings; while the space need not be luxurious, it should be welcoming and have power outlets that are easily reached. Posting a “maintenance” contact name and number in the space so that the accommodated employee can reach out to have any space problems promptly resolved would be a nice feature.
- Have similar interactive conversations with your employee about access to sinks and cold storage. And check your facilities—if they aren’t well-maintained, work with your custodial team to get that changed—everyone will appreciate it!
- Document, document. You don’t need a fancy form—a nice memo to your employee noting the parameters of your agreement about lactation breaks and spaces, along with follow up memos outlining any future discussions of needs, is adequate—if you file it appropriately and retain it according to your policy. Keep in mind that, if for some reason your agency cannot provide a break time or location that complies with the policy, the employer must provide a written response to the employee.
According to SB 142, the employer shall include the policy in an employee handbook or set of policies that the employer makes available to employees. The policy must be distributed to new employees and when an employee makes an inquiry about or requests parental leave. Here is a sample policy you can use to get started.
Additionally, employers must be aware of potential meet and confer considerations. While the specifics of the law are not negotiable, the impacts may be. Employers should advise their employee associations of the new law (a summary you can enclose with your notice is HERE) and provide a copy of the new policy. In your notice, give labor groups a reasonable timeframe to let you know if they want to meet and discuss any potential concerns over its implementation.
For further discussion, please call your assigned HR Advisor or Chris Paxton at 650-587-7300, ext. 38.