Ten years after the bill was first introduced and 10 years after steadfast efforts from advocates, President Biden signed the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA) into law on December 29, 2022. The landmark law confirms protections for pregnant and birthing workers, helping them stay in their jobs without risking their health or safety. In doing so, it’s a win for employees AND employers.
The PWFA has strong business support for a reason. By providing clear benefits for employee retention, morale and safety, the law makes it easier for businesses to attract and retain workers – nearly 2.8 million of whom are pregnant and birthing people. It also clarifies requirements for employers, making it easier to understand what kinds of processes they must follow.
The PWFA takes effect on June 27, 2023, leaving businesses with plenty of time to get ready to implement the law. Here’s what you should know about the PWFA – and stay tuned for more from the National Partnership about how you can implement the new law in a way that works for you and your employees.
- The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act applies to private businesses with 15 or more employees, as well as government employees of any size. It covers all employees regardless of full-time or part-time status.
- The PWFA requires that employers provide reasonable accommodations to employees who need them in relation to pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions, unless providing the accommodation would pose an undue hardship for the business.
- It also protects workers from being forced to accept unnecessary or unwanted accommodations, and from being discriminated against due to needing, requesting or using accommodations.
It’s easy to implement these changes in your workplace. More than half of all workplace accommodations cost nothing to enforce, and the remainder, on average, requires a one-time cost of $500 or less. Reasonable accommodations are adjustments to the employee’s working conditions or environment that make it possible to work safely and healthily. For example:
- Providing a stool for a cashier instead of requiring them to stand;
- Allowing for breaks and/or a private space for pumping;
- Limiting the amount of weight an employee is required to lift; or
- Providing scheduling flexibility or paid time off for medical appointments.
An employer may not be required to provide an accommodation if it would cause an undue hardship for their business operations – meaning significant difficulty or expense on a case-by-case basis. Fortunately, many difficulties can be resolved by communicating with the employee requesting an accommodation. Claiming undue hardship should be the absolute last resort.
Regulations on the implementation of the PWFA are expected from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, although the timing is yet to be determined. For further guidance, check out “Partnership in Action,” our gender equity guide for employers. It offers easy to follow recommendations on implementing protections for pregnant workers, as well as other policies that promote gender equity. Remember that the PWFA only requires small changes – and that each one will make a big difference in the well-being of you and your employees.