Budding Regulations: A Breakdown of New York’s Latest Lactation Break and Prenatal Leave Laws

Gabriela Tan
June 12, 2024

Finding top-tier, knowledgeable budtenders and cultivators can be tough within the competitive cannabis industry. Once you’ve secured valuable members on your team, prioritizing a happy and healthy workforce is essential for success. However, it can be challenging to create a supportive work environment for employees who are soon-to-be or new parents. Recently, New York State labor laws have changed to offer a helping hand, specifically for working parents. It’s often said that it “takes a village” to raise a child – learn how to be a part of your employees’ village and provide them with the support they need. 

In this article, we’ll explore two main changes in New York labor law that you should be aware of as a cannabis business owner — lactation breaks and prenatal leaves. 

What Are Lactation Breaks?

Lactation breaks are scheduled times during the workday when breastfeeding employees can take a break to express breast milk. Employers typically need to provide a private, clean space, other than a bathroom, for this purpose. These breaks support the health and well-being of both the mother and child while also promoting workplace equality.

What Is the New York Lactation Break Law? 

According to the New York State Labor Law Section § 206-c, employers must provide all breastfeeding employees with unpaid break time to pump breast milk during their workday. Below, we’ve outlined the key provisions included in this new policy change: 

  • Employers must accommodate nursing mothers for up to three years after childbirth 
  • Breastfeeding employees should be allowed to take unpaid lactation breaks at least once every three hours to pump breast milk
  • If the employee needs more frequent lactation breaks, employers must accommodate
  • Each lactation break should be at least 20 minutes, but the employee can choose to take a shorter break
  • Employees are entitled to as many unpaid lactation breaks as they need
  • Unpaid lactation break time does not take any time away from the employee’s regular paid breaks or meal times
  • Employees can choose to use their regular paid break or meal times to pump breast milk
  • Employees are not required but are permitted to work before or after their normal shift to make up for the unpaid lactation break time, as long as it falls within the normal work hours
  • Employers must provide breastfeeding employees with a private room to pump breast milk that is not a bathroom or toilet stall
  • If a dedicated lactation room isn’t possible, employers can use:
    • A temporarily vacant room
    • A fully enclosed cubicle with walls at least seven feet tall

A woman is sitting on a bed while breastfeeding her child.

When Will the New York Lactation Break Law Take Effect?

On June 19, 2024, the New York lactation break law will take effect. Employers must be ready to accommodate their team by or before this date. 

What Is Prenatal Leave?

Prenatal leave refers to the time off work that pregnant employees take before their child's birth. This leave allows expectant mothers to attend medical appointments and tests without the fear of losing their jobs. Offering prenatal leave enables employers to support pregnant employees through the physical and emotional demands of pregnancy.

What Is the New York Prenatal Leave Law?

An amendment to New York Labor Law Section § 196-b, also known as New York State Paid Sick Leave Law, will require employers to provide paid prenatal leave for pregnant employees. The key provisions of this new law include:

  • Pregnant employees can take up to 20 hours of paid prenatal leave during any 52-week period for any qualifying reason, such as any pregnancy-related healthcare services
  • Prenatal leave can be used in increments of one hour at a time
  • Prenatal leave must be paid at the employee’s regular rate of pay
  • Prenatal leave must be provided in addition to and may be taken separately from paid sick leave time of up to 40 to 56 hours according to New York State labor laws

At this time, some aspects of the new law are still unclear. In the coming months, expect more details such as what documentation is required to take prenatal leave and how much notice will be required. Further guidance from the New York State Department of Labor is expected before the new law takes effect. 

A pregnant woman is sitting on a bed while holding her stomach.

When Will the New York Prenatal Leave Law Take Effect?

On January 1, 2025, New York’s prenatal leave law will take effect.

What Are the Next Steps for New York’s Prenatal Leave and Lactation Break Laws?

To ensure your cannabis business is compliant with these new laws, start by getting familiar with the details. At the time of writing this article, the New York lactation break law has already been outlined in detail for employers to follow. Read more about the policy here, along with FAQs here. As for the New York paid prenatal leave law, general guidelines have been established, but further guidance is expected throughout the 2024 year leading up to January 2025, when the law will take effect. It’s important to keep an eye out for new updates from the New York State Department of Labor regarding this change so that your team is ready when it’s enforced. 

Beyond familiarizing yourself with the new laws and what they entail, here are some additional steps to take as an employer to successfully implement the new policies:

  • Update your employee handbook with the new laws to make it easy for your staff to learn about these benefits
  • Provide thorough training for managers and HR on the new laws to ensure they can confidently support expecting or new parents
  • Set up your payroll system to accommodate lactation breaks and paid prenatal leave, ensuring peace of mind for your staff

A female budtender is on a ladder in front of a display shelf while checking a clip board.

Key Takeaways From the Latest New York Labor Laws

Following New York’s lactation break and prenatal leave laws not only ensures you stay legal but also allows you to invest in your team. Supporting expecting and new parents demonstrates your commitment to employee well-being, boosting employee morale, productivity, and loyalty. Dedicated employees who feel good about their jobs will be ready to cultivate success — both at work and at home. 

Rolling out new labor laws can feel overwhelming, but managing HR doesn’t have to be. KayaPush’s all-in-one people management software designed for cannabis businesses can help you streamline your HR operations. From hiring and onboarding to scheduling and payroll, we’ve got your back. Book a demo with us today to explore the possibilities of strain free HR.

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June 2024


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