Transformative Policies for Pregnant and Breastfeeding Workers Enacted

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Pregnant?Just gave birth? Pumping? You have new protections in the workplace.
Photo Credit: A Better Balance

We wanted to share some exciting news: two groundbreaking new laws – the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act and the PUMP Act – went into effect across the country recently to help pregnant, postpartum and pumping workers keep their jobs, protect their health, and care for their youngest family members during the pivotal early childhood growth and development stage of life. 

These pieces of legislation provide workers the right to receive reasonable accommodations, like light duty, pumping breaks, flexible and modified schedules; transfers away from toxic chemicals; being provided with a stool to sit on for pregnancy, childbirth recovery, lactation, and related medical conditions. It will make it easier for millions of people to keep their jobs and maintain their livelihoods while also protecting their health and the health of their unborn and infant children, in a monumental victory for gender, racial, and economic justice. 

Pregnant Workers Fairness Act

Pregnant worker accommodations are work adjustments such as more frequent breaks or light duty that allow pregnant people to do their jobs safely, without jeopardizing their health or the health of their babies.

The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, having been first introduced in 2012 and finally passed Congress in 2022, gives expecting parents the right to things like:

  • Extra breaks to drink water, eat, rest, or use the bathroom
  • Temporary transfers
  • Flexible scheduling to attend doctors appointments
  • Time off to recover from childbirth or miscarriage
  • Light duty
  • Remote work
  • And much more. 

Until this legislation passed, NC employers were not required to provide accommodations for pregnant workers

The PUMP for Nursing Mothers Act

The PUMP for Nursing Mothers Act (“PUMP Act”) provides several important changes to the Break Time for Nursing Mothers law, which has required since 2010 that employers nationwide provide reasonable break time and a private, non-bathroom space for lactating employees to pump milk during the workday. 

The PUMP Act gives postpartum and lactating parents the following for up to one year after the birth of a child:

  • A reasonable amount of paid or unpaid break time to pump breast milk. If the employee isn’t completely relieved from duty, it must be paid.
  • A clean, private, non-bathroom space to pump
  • Right to sue an employer that violates this law.
  • Protection from employers retaliating against workers who request pumping accommodations.

The PUMP Act was passed to close some of the loopholes in the original 2010 law, including: 

  • Almost entirely closes the coverage gap that left 1 in 4 women of childbearing age without federal protection of their right to break time and a private space to pump during the workday. It expands the legal right to receive pumping breaks and private space to nearly 9 million more workers, including teachers, registered nurses, farmworkers, and many others.
  • Makes it possible for an employee to file a lawsuit against an employer that violates the law. Before the PUMP Act became law, employees who were harmed when their employer did not provide break time and space were not able to seek a monetary remedy in court.
  • Clarifies that pumping time counts as time worked when calculating minimum wage and overtime if an employee is not completely relieved from their work duties during the pumping break.

Thanks to the PUMP Act, nearly all workers are now covered by the federal lactation break time and space requirements. 

Know Your Rights on Accommodations

Check out the Know Your Rights site from our friends at A Better Balance to see all the ways that this new law can help you or your friends or colleagues who may be pregnant or recently became parents. Learn more about Workplace Rights from the Better Balance hub.

Family Forward Policies

Family workplace policies have not kept pace with the dramatic rise in the number of working families over the last few decades. The immediate and long-term business advantages of family forward workplace policies and positive outcomes to child and family health and well-being are well-documented.

Supporting pregnant workers reduces infant mortality, improves maternal and infant health, and reduces doctor and hospital visits for complications. North Carolina has one of the highest infant mortality rates in the country – a crisis that disproportionately affects Black people and babies – so these new federal protections are critical to address the Black maternal health crisis and support healthy pregnancies, healthy births, and a healthy start in life for all babies.

Through our Guide to Family Forward Workplaces, research and the exchange of ideas among business leaders, employees and organizations, Family Forward NC, an initiative of the NC Early Childhood Foundation, promotes workforce investments such as paid parental leave, support for breastfeeding mothers, employer-sponsored childcare options and accommodations for pregnant workers, which support children’s healthy development and a competitive business environment.

Pregnant worker accommodations and support for breastfeeding workers are key components of our recommended family-friendly work policies. 

Keep in Touch with NCECF and Support Our Work

These are two of the largest wins for workers in decades, but it only helps workers if they know about it. Millions of pregnant and postpartum workers do not currently know about the new rights and protections that the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act and PUMP Act provide. 

Can you help spread the word to your friends and networks, so expecting and new parents get the support they need in their workplace?

Please be sure to subscribe to our biweekly newsletter and consider making a donation today to continue a strong 2023 by helping us transform the lives of North Carolina families, from their earliest days, while also supporting a small growing, family-friendly team. 

The NC Early Childhood Foundation is driven by a bold – and achievable – vision: Each North Carolina child has a strong foundation for life-long health, education, and well-being supported by a comprehensive, equitable birth-to-eight ecosystem. We build understanding, lead collaboration, and advance policies to ensure each North Carolina child is on track for lifelong success by the end of third grade.