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New Laws Provide Prenatal Leave and Breast Milk Expression Breaks for Employees

(June 18, 2024) The 2024-25 State Budget included two new laws requiring employers to provide paid breaks for expressing breast milk and paid prenatal personal leave. Effective June 19, 2024, all employers must provide employees with paid 30-minutes breaks to allow them to express breast milk for their nursing child. The prenatal personal leave requirement takes effect on Jan. 1, 2025 and requires employers to provide 20 hours of paid prenatal personal leave during any 52-week calendar period.

The new breast milk expression law, found at Labor Law Section 206-C, does not specify the number of paid breaks that must be provided, but provides that breaks must be allowed "each time such employee has reasonable need to express breast milk for up to three years following child birth." Frequently Asked Questions posted by the Department of Labor (DOL) state: 

Q: How Often During the Workday Can I Take Breaks to Pump Breast Milk

A: Your employer must accommodate you whenever you reasonably need to take a break. The number of break times needed throughout the day will be unique to each individual employee.

In addition, the breast milk expression law specifies that, for breaks in excess of 30 minutes, employers must permit the employee to use existing paid break time or meal time. Employers are required to tell employees about their rights regarding breast milk expression by providing DOL's "Policy on the Rights of Employees to Express Breast Milk in the Workplace" when they start a new job and annually thereafter. That policy and other resources are available here. A memorandum from LeadingAge NY's outside counsel at Hinman Straub is available here.

The new law builds on prior law that required employers to provide reasonable unpaid breaks, to designate an appropriate room or other location for purposes of breast milk expression, and to make available refrigeration for breast milk if the workplace has access to refrigeration.

The prenatal personal leave law (Labor Law Section 196-B) requires employers to provide leave for health care services during pregnancy, including physical examinations, medical procedures, monitoring and testing, and discussions with a health care provider related to the pregnancy. The law appears to apply only to private sector employers, not public sector employers, as the definition of "employer" in the applicable article of the Labor Law excludes governmental agencies. Upon returning to work following paid prenatal leave, the employee must be restored to the position held by such employee prior to the paid prenatal leave with the same pay and other terms of employment. Notably, the law does not require an employer to pay an employee for unused paid prenatal leave upon termination, resignation, retirement, or other separation from employment. A memorandum from Hinman Straub is available here.

Contact: Karen Lipson, klipson@leadingageny.org