Navigate Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA): Watch the webinar replay

San Francisco Lactation in the Workplace

This past June, San Francisco, California passed the Lactation in the Workplace Ordinance that gives additional protections to breastfeeding mothers in the workplace. In addition to requiring employers to provide a reasonable amount of break time for a mother to pump milk, it also set specific requirements for lactation areas and policies. Designating a lactation area for a small business can be challenging, especially for businesses in multi-tenant buildings. But with a little creativity it is possible to create a space for your breastfeeding employee.

Defining The Space

The lactation space should not be a bathroom and it needs to be clean and free of hazardous materials. A small office or meeting room can be used to create a lactation area. A storage closet can be converted into a lactation space, but it should be cleared of stored items and extra furniture so it can be an effective mother’s room. In a multi-unit building where a business cannot accommodate a lactation area in the employer’s work area, we highly recommend the tenants and different companies sharing the building work together to designate a lactation room or space that can be shared by all the businesses. 

The lactation space or room can also be shared for non-lactation purposes but lactation needs take precedence regarding room usage to be in compliance with the law. For example, a person’s office can be used as a lactation space as long as the room is available when the mother needs it. Although if possible, it’s always better to have a designated room. 

Although the ordinance only requires a lactation space, we highly recommend having an enclosed room for a lactation space for privacy reasons. If there's no feasible way to make a room available, whether it is sharing a room with other uses or businesses, there are options to make a breastfeeding space that's private in a shared space. You can contact Healthy Horizons Corporate Lactation Services for assistance in defining the space and making it private and comfortable for employees.

Providing Electricity

San Francisco’s ordinance also requires that electricity be provided to the room for an electric breastpump. An outlet or a way to plug in a breastpump must be provided. Employers can have an outlet installed in the room. If that is not possible try to bring in electricity by using a power strip with a surge protector and extension cord. Ensure the electrical setup is safety compliant.

Setting Up The Space

The ordinance also requires that the employer provides a chair and surface space for a breastpump. A table, small desk, or counter can be provided to accommodate the breastpump. If your office has a hospital-grade breastpump special pump stands can also be purchased. Try to provide a space that is near waist level to the employee when sitting so their pump is about level to their chest. An adjustable office chair helps accommodate moms of different heights and is more ergonomic. Adding a multi-user hospital-grade breastpump like the Medela Symphony or Ameda Platinum is a wonderful addition and goes a long way in making pumping at work more efficient and less stressful for mothers. 

For businesses that are able to accommodate a separate room, make sure the room locks from the inside. Provide a door hanger to indicate when the room is in use, particularly if the room is shared with non-lactation activities, such as a wellness room.

Making It Comfortable

If the area doesn’t have a sink and a key is required to enter the kitchen or another sink area, have a key handy in the lactation space so a mom can use it if she needs access to a sink. Have paper towels and bacterial wipes on hand so moms can keep the area clean and wipe up any messes quickly. You can make the space more inviting by hanging small pieces of artwork, pictures, mirrors, or even a small cork board for moms to put a picture of their baby or write notes to other moms. If space allows and there is a outlet space, you could even provide a small dorm size refrigerator for moms to store their breastmilk. Having a freezer is a big plus! 

With some creativity and planning, it is possible for even the smallest business to provide a reasonable area for a breastfeeding mother to pump milk. There are many options for a business to provide a pleasant space that is also in compliance with San Francisco’s new legislation. Even if your business is not in San Francisco, you can still provide a clean and welcoming place for your employees to pump milk and reap the benefits of having happy mothers who are able to provide breastmilk for their babies. Healthy Horizons Corporate Lactation Services can help small businesses set up their lactation space. Contact us find out more on how you can create a space in your small business.