Health Care Reform Requires Lactation Breaks

In the fourth edition of Create Your Own Employee Handbook, we provide a policy for employers who provide lactation breaks for nursing mothers (policy 6:4). This policy was intended for employers in states that require these breaks and for employers who provide them voluntarily.

As of March 2010, however, many more employers need to adopt this policy. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (the formal name of the health care reform law) requires employers to allow nursing mothers to take breaks during the day to express breast milk, for up to a year after the baby is born. Employers must provide a private space -- other than a restroom -- for this purpose. Unless required by state law, employers don't have to pay employees for this time.

The law includes an exception for employers with fewer than 50 employees for whom providing lactation breaks would impose an undue hardship: significant expense or difficulty, considering the employer's size, structure, and resources. The Department of Labor is expected to release regulations interpreting this new requirement, including the undue hardship exception.

Employers who now need to provide lactation breaks may use the existing policy 6:4 in their handbooks, revising the policy as needed to indicate where employees may take these breaks and whether the company will pay for this time.