In the age of “the great resignation,” providing support for breastfeeding employees—no matter your business—is essential to both attract and retain talent. While job functions and workplace settings vary, providing family-friendly infrastructure and policies show employees that you support them in both their professional and personal lives. How can workplace leaders (who, by the way, don’t need to sit at the top of the org chart) make this happen? Work to ensure that your organization provides these essential new-parent supports:
Paid parental leave
The United States remains one of the only nations in the world without a federal paid leave policy. And only 19 percent of employees have access to paid leave through their employers. Which means that the majority of new parents are left to patch together time (if they can afford to take it off) to care for a newborn, heal from delivering a human into the world, and adjust to the many demands of parenthood. Parental leave is beneficial not only for baby and mother, but also for promoting gender equity at home and improving employee morale. Access to paid leave should be a national priority, but until it is, employers must do the right thing and make it one of their core benefits.
Providing new parents with a clear transition plan can ease the return back to work after the arrival of a baby. Whether that’s part-time for a few weeks or the option to work remotely, some flexibility will go a long way. And the more understanding employers are that all working parents, with children of all ages, benefit from schedule flexibility, the more easily employees can successfully meet both their job and family responsibilities.
A dedicated lactation space
New parents who are breastfeeding need to make time in their schedule to pump every three hours. Don’t add to the burden by introducing uncertainty about where they will pump. Provide a private and comfortable lactation space. The best lactation spaces are dedicated spaces (rather than multi-use rooms or wellness rooms), close to where employees work, and are available to them when they need them.
A lactation accommodation policy
Rather than stigmatizing workplace pumping, a clear lactation accommodation policy outlines for all employees—not just new parents—why breastfeeding is important, why parents need to pump on a predictable schedule, and clarifies expectations about the support and space breastfeeding employees need. Federal law currently protects many breastfeeding workers, but many states have even more robust lactation accommodation laws.
An inclusive workplace culture
Creating a workplace environment and culture requires knowing what parents need, and then making those needs normalized and part of the everyday expectations of work. Create a task force dedicated to working parents at your organization— a counsel of other parents who can help mentor, advocate, and troubleshoot. When parents are supported, they feel seen and valued. And employees that are valued are employees that stay.