Many office, administrative, technical, and professional jobs are projected to grow in the next 10 years.1 Over half of the people working in management, business, or other professional jobs are women.2 Even though occupations and industries that involve office work are numerous and diverse, employers can accommodate women who work in office settings with lactation break time and space. View and share lactation break time and space success stories from various types of professional or office jobs.
Lactation break time and space in offices
Finding a lactation space in a large office building is usually not too difficult. However, in small offices with no private areas, supervisors may need to work with other businesses to accommodate lactation break time and space for just one breastfeeding employee. Any employer with non-exempt hourly employees is required by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) to provide reasonable break time and a private lactation space that is not a bathroom for breastfeeding employees. The Break Time for Nursing Mothers FLSA requirement can be seen on the FLSA minimum wage poster (PDF, 147 KB) or notice that must be posted in worksites covered by FLSA.
- Time. Many employees use regular break times and meal periods to pump or express milk. Hourly workers can clock out for lactation breaks if they take longer than standard break times. Many employers do not track extra time for pumping breaks as long as a woman completes her job duties in a timely manner. Flexibility on the part of both employer and employee is necessary when a mother is breastfeeding. Supervisors should be aware of the need for lactation breaks if there is unscheduled overtime or extended duty hours.
- Space. In a larger office building, it should be straightforward to create a permanent, dedicated lactation room or to find an empty office or storage area for employees to express or pump milk. Signs should be provided to ensure other employees know the room is being used for expressing milk. Part of an employee lounge or break area can be screened off to create privacy. Facilities with an on-site day care center often provide space for direct breastfeeding or expressing milk in the day care center. In a small office, it is not necessary to create a permanent, dedicated lactation space. Employees can use a manager’s office or storage area as a flexible and temporary space. Lactation space must not be in a bathroom. Learn more about what employers need to know about the Break Time for Nursing Mothers law.
Lactation break time and space in cubicles, labs or research areas, and for professionals who travel
Not every office or professional job can easily accommodate lactation space. Creative solutions can show support for employees who work and breastfeed and can also ensure that an employer complies with federal, state, or local regulations. Many employers with hourly or government employees are required by FLSA to provide reasonable break time and a private lactation space that is not a bathroom for non-exempt breastfeeding employees. This requirement can be seen on the FLSA minimum wage poster (PDF, 147 KB) or notice that must be posted in worksites covered by FLSA.
- Time. Many employees use regular break times and meal periods to pump or express milk. In many offices, staff are able to cover for each other when lactation breaks are necessary. Others do not worry about tracking any extra break time for expressing milk or pumping. Some companies provide overnight shipping services for moms to send breastmilk home while on extended travel. Small businesses where the breastfeeding mother is the only office employee present may need to post a “be right back” sign or phone message during pumping breaks.
- Space. Offices with large open areas or many cubicles may choose to create a permanent lactation room if they have many employees who are new moms and breastfeeding at the same time. Worksites that are primarily lab or research space may also need a small, but permanent lactation room that is located away from any hazardous materials or equipment. Alternatives include temporarily using a manager’s office, storage area, or conference room for lactation. Any shared or common area should be made private with screens or a lock while a woman is using the space for lactation. Some companies with employees who travel for work may inquire about community sites with available lactation space. Employees working at a client site can work with the client to find lactation space. Lactation space must not be in a bathroom. Learn more about what employers need to know about the Break Time for Nursing Mothers law.
- Lacey, T.A., Toossi, M., Dubina, K.S., Gensler, A.B. (2017). Projections overview and highlights, 2016–26. Monthly Labor Review. U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics.
- U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2018). Labor Force Statistics from the Current Population Survey, Table 11: Employed persons by detailed occupation, sex, race, and Hispanic or Latino ethnicity.