With today marking the start of World Breastfeeding Week, now is the time that organizations should be ensuring they are providing a positive workplace environment for those nursing that will benefit them all year round.

People that are still breastfeeding when returning to work will need to express breast milk between 8-10 times over a 24-hour period. In the US, it is a legal requirement for employers to provide a private space to express, as well as allowing their breastfeeding employees to take breaks as frequently as necessary. These facilities must be available for at least a year, and this set of policies are known as the federal Break Time for Nursing Mothers Law. However, there can be regional differences to these laws; for example, in the state of Colorado there is no set amount of time a company must cater for the needs of those breastfeeding.

New Zealand and parts of Canada follow a very similar approach, with employers required to provide the appropriate facilities for anyone breastfeeding.

In the UK, however, there is currently no formal legal requirement for a workplace to provide such facilities. As a result, it was reported last year that a Member of Parliament, Stella Creasy, had been criticized for bringing her baby son to her workplace – the Houses of Parliament in London – while she was still breastfeeding him. Shortly after, Ms Creasy received an official notice stating that she should not take her seat in the debating chamber with a child – a notice she subsequently published on Twitter to highlight the issue surrounding the lack of support for women in this same position at work.

While there is guidance from the Health and Safety Executive which recommends that a clean environment (that is not a bathroom) be supplied, there is an opportunity for employers in the UK to take responsibility for supporting the needs of their nursing employees.

The importance of women having a space to breastfeed at work is vital for their health and safety. There is a risk of swelling and soreness if a woman doesn’t express when needed, and in extreme cases this can lead to a bacterial infection called mastitis.

The embedding of inclusion policies for breastfeeding can help remove the pervading stigma that is clearly still attached to those nursing in some workplaces and, in turn, help create an even safer and more inclusive workplace culture overall. Whether there are laws in place or not, it is also about employers ensuring they are adopting the right attitudes towards breastfeeding, and that their teams are as well.

There are common misconceptions around breastfeeding a lot of the time, one of these being that when women go to express, they are ‘taking a break’ and/or ‘wasting time’ at work. But it is important for staff to be educated around the realities of expressing, and how it can be a tiring and somewhat uncomfortable thing to be doing multiple times a day (to the point where women are burning an additional 500 calories a day when breastfeeding!).

This ideology also completely undermines the fact that those expressing are not able to multitask while doing so. Considering there are a wide range of breast pumps available on the market now – including hands-free pumps – women are able to work on reports, catch up with emails, make calls…all while pumping. So ensuring that your teams and your managers are educated around the realities of expressing is just as important for creating a safe space for female colleagues to do so.

This is without mentioning the business case for this support, which can lead to a reduced absence rate and higher retention rates from those working mothers who feel recognized and valued.

With the US, Canada, and New Zealand leading the way in accommodating the needs of breastfeeding workers, executives around the world should seize the opportunity to show leadership in their countries. For advice on how to approach the implementation of these strategies, you can contact me directly at stephanie.rodriguez@orgshakers.com

At the beginning of January, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) proposed a new law that would ban the use of non-compete clauses, as well as rescind any previously signed agreements. 

This may seem like a drastic change – especially with nearly a third (31.8%) of employers making all their employees sign a non-compete – but the banning of these clauses will very likely have a positive effect overall.

For one thing, non-compete agreements are notoriously US-centric. If you look at companies in Europe – as well as states such as California, who have not enforced these since 1872 – it is clear that the absence of these binding agreements has not hindered profitability. 

And this is because there are many ways that are more effective than non-compete agreements to protect yourself as a business. The reality of a non-compete is that they are like threatening someone with a blunt hammer; they’re very difficult and very costly to argue in court, so usually won’t have much effect. But they hold weighty connotations that are enough to deter people from attempting to break them. 

Instead, employers can hold employees to their duty of loyalty, which means that while they are working with them, they will not do anything that is inconsistent with the organization’s interests. 

As well as this, the FTC’s new rules still allow for the recovery of reasonable costs of training, as well as the implementation of a non-solicitation clause so that a reasonable degree of confidentiality is still intact after an employee terminates their contract. So from a legal standpoint, you are still covered in the areas that you need to be, while also making room for an acceleration of innovation to take place in the market. 

It will also set into motion the recalibration of retention strategies. For lack of a better word, a non-compete agreement is a lazy tool, and so with its revoking, this paves the way for businesses to focus on using more positive, people-centric strategies to promote retention. These will emphasize how a company values its team members, and with leaders demonstrating the trust they have in their staff, they will foster a healthy sense of loyalty without the need for it in writing. 

What employers need to take from this proposition is that job mobility does not mean the free flow of confidential information. It simply means that the labor market becomes more flexible and competitive, and is an opportunity for businesses to gain access to top talent. But the companies that are examining their attraction and retention strategies and taking into account the changing needs of the workforce will be the ones who get ahead in this raging war for talent. 

OrgShakers can help with this. With a vast amount of experience and knowledge on these subjects, we can ensure that the rescinding of non-competes is smooth and successful, all the while aiding in strengthening your retention strategies and boosting employee loyalty. If you would like to discuss how we can do this, get in touch with me at: elizabeth.huldin@orgshakers.com

Copyright OrgShakers: The global HR consultancy for workplace transformation founded by David Fairhurst in 2020

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