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A Comprehensive Guide to Maternity Leave and Lactation Breaks

As an employer, you need to provide maternity leave and lactation breaks.

Do you want to put your practice in the best possible position to be successful? If so, you need to attract as wide of a talent pool as possible. That means focusing on mothers as well. There are plenty of mothers who would make fantastic employees, but if you want them to come and work for you, you need to make your workplace more attractive.

Working mothers make fabulous employees, but there are important legal requirements you need to follow. Furthermore, if you follow a few best practices, you can improve the work-life balance of working mothers, allowing them to be more productive for your practice.

What do you need to know about workplace support regarding maternity leave and lactation accommodations? Learn more below, and do not hesitate to reach out to an expert who can help you.

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Maternity Leave Policies

First, it is critical to be familiar with the legal requirements regarding maternity leave. According to the Family Medical Leave Act, all companies, schools, and public agencies that employ more than 50 employees must allow mothers to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid maternity leave during a 12-month period. At the same time, it is possible that your specific state could have stricter recommendations, so be sure to consult with your local government as well.

Now that you are familiar with the bare minimum, it is important to take a look at some best practices you should follow. If you only allow unpaid maternity leave, you will have a difficult time retaining working mothers, and your female talent pool will suffer.

Some of the most important tips you should follow include:

  • Always start by conducting market research. What do the other practices in the area offer? If other practices offer three months of paid maternity leave for new mothers, you should do the same thing.
  • Figure out what you can afford. If your practice is relatively small, how long can you truly allow someone to be away from the office before you start to suffer?
  • Think about the logistics. If someone goes away for three months for maternity leave, how is the practice going to survive? Are you going to have to deny all other vacation requests for three months?
  • Advertise your policy. After you have a firm policy in place, make sure you advertise it. Make sure your employees know what the policy is, and use it to attract outside talent to the practice.

Remember that even if an employee is away on maternity leave, you can still provide them with some support. You might want to help them coordinate doctors’ appointments by leaning on your network, and you might even want to check in from time to time to see how they are doing. Even when they come back to the office, make sure you are flexible. Let them know that it is okay to take an hour here or there if there is a doctor’s appointment they need to go to.

Lactation Breaks

New mothers who work at your practice might need to take lactation breaks from time to time as well. Federal law requires you to provide a reasonable amount of time for new mothers to express breast milk and feed their children. Even though there is not a strict minute requirement you need to meet, you should be reasonable.

It will be up to you to develop a reasonable activation policy. Some of the most important tips to follow include:

  • Expect a lactation break to last between 15 and 20 minutes. Remember that you will have to be as flexible as possible. This should also be paid time, in most cases.
  • You may want to convert an unused office in your practice into a temporary lactation room. If you do not have an unused room, you might want to see if a neighboring business is willing to share space with you.
  • In the lactation room, make sure there is a small, movable table, a lock on the door, and a comfortable seat. It should also have an electrical outlet, a refrigerator for breast milk, and a sink for the new mothers to wash their hands.
  • You should also make sure you have a written lactation policy in place. Make sure your employees are aware of it, and make sure other managers and supervisors do not overstep their bounds.

New mothers are sometimes hesitant to let you know when they need a lactation break because they want to show they are still a part of the team. Make sure you are as warm and welcoming as possible, and ensure your employees know that they should not hesitate if they have a lactation need that needs to be addressed.

Recommended Reading: Disability Accommodations: A Win-Win for Employers and Employees Alike  

Balancing Work and Family

Breastfeeding, lactation, and parental rights are important. If you show your employees that you care about their work-life balance, you can improve your morale, productivity, and retention rates. Some of the most important tips to follow include:

  • Encourage your employees to ask for help when they need it, particularly when new mothers return to the office for the first time.
  • Be proactive instead of reactive. Encourage your employees to let you know when they might be expecting. That way, you can make plans far in advance.
  • Ensure you always have backup coverage. If a new mother has to leave unexpectedly, ensure you always have someone to cover the gaps.

These tips will put your practice in the best position possible to be successful.

Contact Dental and Medical Counsel for Help Creating an Inclusive Workplace

Diversity and inclusion are more important today than they have ever been in the past period if you want to maximize your retention rates, you need to include the right employee support structure. That means thinking about maternity leave and lactation breaks as well.
We are Dental and Medical Counsel, and we are here to help you address issues related to parental leave. Contact us today!

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