New York passed a comprehensive Paid Family Leave policy at the beginning of the year, representing yet another major piece of state legislation that makes the workplace more accommodating to working parents and employees with specific medical needs. California, which has had a robust policy for several years, increased their wage replacement rates by approximately 10% in January. As states continue to roll out or enhance their employer laws, it is important to ensure that both your HR policies and office space meet city and state requirements.
Since 2010, the Fair Labor Standards Act has required employers to provide a place for nursing mothers to pump and store their breast milk. According to the Department of Labor, employers must provide nursing employees:
- A reasonable break time to pump breast milk for one year after a child’s birth
- A room other than a bathroom that is shielded from view and free from intrusion
Typically, nursing mothers pump breast milk for 15 to 30 minutes at a time, two to three times during the workday. They need space to lay out milk storage bottles, clean pump parts, and a refrigerator to store pumped milk.
Often referred to as a “wellness room,” this space should be a quiet, private, and secure environment in an area that is safe for food preparation. For companies that need to either build out or upgrade a wellness room, the American Institute of Architects (AIA) has outlined best practices and suggested layouts for these spaces and recommend companies provide one wellness room per 100 female employees.
As you plan your wellness room, ensure it includes these features:
- Carpet and soundproofing to minimize noise and distraction
- Soothing, ambient lighting (avoid fluorescent bulbs)
- A sink that is deep enough to wash bottles and pump parts
- Ventilation, heat, and air conditioning
- Electrical outlets
- User-operated lock to ensure privacy
- Warm or cool paint colors (avoid stark white or bright hues)
- Scheduling system for multiple users to ensure privacy
If you choose to convert an existing conference room or private office to a wellness room following the requirements above, be sure to pay particular attention to privacy. You may need to add opaque window coverings that can be well secured, replace frosted glass, or add acoustic panels and carpeting for soundproofing. In addition to the space and layout, furniture and accessories in the wellness room should support the employees who use it. They include:
- An adjustable, workstation appropriate chair
- A table or counter that is 18 inches deep and 32 inches wide to rest in front of a chair, installed at workstation height
- Midsize or compact refrigerator for milk storage
- Trash can and paper towels
Ensure that all materials and accessories, including the chair and table, are easy to wipe down and clean.
These rooms can also be made available to employees who have other medical needs, which will create a more inclusive workspace for all. This is one of the reasons many offices have moved to the name “wellness room” over “lactation room” in recent years.
Beyond legally required wellness rooms, there are many strategies that companies can adopt to ease the burden on working parents and create a more inclusive workplace. In addition to providing parental leave for both parents, this can include flextime, support for childcare, and employee activities that take parents’ schedules into account.
If you need help planning the design or build out of your wellness room, Managed by Q can help you source designers, contractors, painters, and electricians.