The manufacturing industry is desperate to hire workers and retain the ones it already has. According to a recent report, “Manufacturing in the U.S. has a talent problem. The number of vacant positions as of February 2022 stands at 855,000. Projections by Deloitte suggest that the number could swell to a staggering 2.1 million by 2030.”
For this reason, manufacturers have identified women and other underrepresented populations as targets for recruiting and retention efforts. To help keep their female employees and appeal to prospective ones, major companies have begun installing lactation stations in their workplaces.
“These companies are doing the right thing to create inclusive environments,” says Stephanie Boms, co-founder and CEO of Nessel. “Traditionally, breastfeeding employees have been overlooked. Today, however, businesses are starting to acknowledge the importance of this talent pool and using lactation stations as a recruiting and retention tool.”
New regulations require lactation accommodation
Recent changes in the law constitute another reason manufacturers and other companies are installing lactation stations. In December 2022, President Biden signed the Providing Urgent Maternal Protections (PUMP) for Nursing Mothers Act, which specifies that employers must provide “a place, other than a bathroom, that is shielded from view and free from intrusion from coworkers and the public, which may be used by an employee to express breast milk.”
Individual states have also passed legislation that requires adequate nursing facilities in workplaces of all kinds. For instance, New York not only mandates that all employers provide staff with convenient access to private, well-lit pumping stations with running water, but also instructs them to adopt an official written policy on nursing employees’ rights. This statement must be given to all new employees as well as to all employees on an annual basis. Employers must also issue it to employees who are returning after the birth of a child.
Lactation space solutions designed specifically for manufacturing environments
While many corporate leaders may fear these changes, Nessel provides quick, easy solutions. “Our manufacturing-specific product solutions have everything built-in to be legally compliant and meet all nursing employees’ needs,” says Della Leapman, the company’s co-founder and COO. “In addition, our modular rooms and products are designed and specified specifically for manufacturing environments and plant facilities.”
A woman-owned and operated business, Nessel has helped a variety of major corporations and manufacturers introduce lactation accommodations into their spaces, including car manufacturers, electrical equipment providers, and food producers. Nessel’s experienced team provides consultations and surveys companies’ existing spaces with an eye to creating fully functional and supportive lactation space for team members who need to pump, tailored to each site type. Since Nessel lactation stations and modular pods don’t require construction or plumbing, it’s no surprise many large manufacturers have chosen to partner with them. Nessel specifies modular breastfeeding pods designed specifically for manufacturing environments as well as plumbing-free stations for pumping employees.
“Our lactation stations have been designed with pumping in mind,” Boms comments. “The chair is designed to be comfortable, but also to accommodate pumping and avoid spillage. The sink provides running water for good hygiene. There’s also a refrigerator, so the new parent doesn’t have to worry about someone else spilling their milk or taking it by accident.”
According to Boms, demand for Nessel lactation stations from manufacturers rose markedly during the COVID-19 pandemic, when the industry first started to get crunched for workers. Since then, however, business hasn’t slowed. “We are inundated, and that’s where we want to be,” Boms says. “It means that the need is there, and our solution is a good one. We also know we’re supporting women and parents during a vulnerable time in their lives, and that’s important to us.”
Supporting nursing employees is good business
Employers also benefit from installing lactation stations. When workplaces make it easy for workers to fulfill their natural needs as new parents, they make it possible for those workers to remain in their jobs.
“If an employee feels unsupported and unable to balance the challenges of being a parent with being an employee, there’s a choice to be made,” Leapman explains. “The physical and emotional demands of parenthood are powerful, so the decision often goes in favor of the child.”
“When women feel seen and heard and their needs are met, they are more willing to work there,” Boms adds. “There is tons of research showing that employers have lower absenteeism rates because the overall health of both mothers and their babies are improved. Feeling seen and respected means employees are more likely to stay, leading to lower turnover. The numbers show that for every $1 invested, the company makes back $3 in cost savings.”
Boms also noted that a ripple effect takes place when employers install lactation stations. This gesture of humanity toward one group of employees makes the entire team feel seen and understood, which boosts morale.
“Supporting workers in manufacturing is one of our deep passions,” Leapman says. “These workers are often on their feet all day. They’re working on assembly lines and doing physical labor, so the last thing they need is to worry about is pumping at work.”
“The sooner employers find a way to support these workers, the better,” Boms concurs. “Having children is not a trend and it’s not a passing phase. It’s the most natural part of humanity, and it won’t stop happening anytime soon.”