Recent Changes to the Illinois Nursing Mothers in the Workplace Act
According to a recent study, more than 70% of American women don’t follow the current World Health Organization’s recommendation that they exclusively breastfeed their babies for the first six months.
I’m not here to argue formula feeding vs. breastfeeding or discuss all the reasons that people may do one or the other. I will, however, highlight one struggle a working mom can face when trying to breastfeed their child after returning to work.
The CDC’s Support for Breastfeeding in the Workplace guide highlights returning to work as one reason that working moms are not breastfeeding as long as recommended, citing a real or perceived low milk supply, the lack of flexibility to express milk, lack of accommodations to pump or store breast milk, and lack of support from employers and co-workers.
In late August, however, Illinois amended the Illinois Nursing Mothers in the Workplace Act, effective immediately, requiring Illinois employers to provide paid reasonable breaks to mothers who breastfeed or express milk at work. While nursing breaks may still run concurrently with any break time already provided to the employee, any additional breaks that may be needed to express milk or breastfeed a baby must now be paid.
Illinois employers may still require nursing employees to use their unpaid meal break for nursing or expressing milk without compensation. The amendment also only requires the additional breaks be paid for one year after the child’s birth. Previously, the Act did not limit the time which mothers could take additional breaks to express milk.
So, what does this mean? Employers need to look at their current policies regarding mothers coming back to work and their abilities to nurse or express milk. To deny an employee a break to express milk, an employer will need to be able to establish that the break would create an “undue hardship” as defined under the ADA. As with any accommodation, the key to success for both mom and employer is a joint, interactive discussion to determine a fair and appropriate number of additional breaks.
If you currently don’t provide additional paid breaks to employees to express milk or if you have questions about the amended law, please reach out to your Assurance representative for further assistance.
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