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Expanding Protections for Breastfeeding Mothers

By: Kendall Jackson

So far this year, we have seen two notable advancements in protections for breastfeeding mothers in the workplace. The first of which includes the expansion of women’s preventive services under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Based on new recommendations by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), breastfeeding mothers will no longer have to pay out-of-pocket costs for particular breast pumps and related supplies. The HRSA specifically noted that access to double electric breast pumps should be prioritized and should not be treated as a secondary step if manual pumps are unsuccessful. In addition to the double electric breast pumps, the preventive service recommendation includes coverage for the pump parts, maintenance of the pumps, and supplementary equipment for women needing additional services or for women who have faced breastfeeding complications. Plans subject to the ACA and its preventive care mandate must cover these new additions to women’s preventive services with no cost sharing.

The second protection is an employment law that governs nursing mothers’ access to areas to express breast milk while at work. The Providing Urgent Maternal Protections (PUMP) For Nursing Mothers Act expanded the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and took effect on April 28, 2023. Under the PUMP Act, for one year following the birth of the child, the nursing mother must be allowed to take a break for a reasonable time to express breast milk. The frequency and duration of the breaks are dependent on the mother’s needs. Additionally, the employer must provide a space for the nursing mother to pump that is not a bathroom, is shielded from view, and will not expose the mother to the intruding staff or public. Employers are not required to compensate the mothers during this break unless the mother is not fully relieved from work duties or if the break would have otherwise been paid. The PUMP Act applies to all employers with 50 or more employees. If an employer with fewer than 50 employees can demonstrate that adhering to the requirements of the Act would impose undue hardship on the employer, then the employer would be exempt from the Act’s requirements. Currently, flight attendants and pilots are the only occupations excluded from the Act.

With any new development in law, it is important to know how it will affect the employer and their plan. The new preventive service recommendation for breastfeeding mothers specifically impacts coverage for health plans that are subject to the ACA. The PUMP Act, meanwhile, is an employment law which directly impacts the employer. If applicable, employers must provide breaks for nursing mothers according to the standards set out in the Act. As always, please do not hesitate to reach out to our consulting teams to assist with any questions you may have relating to these expanded protections for mothers in the workplace.