31 July 2020

Massachusetts Paid Family & Medical Leave: Top 10 Things Employers Need to Know

Massachusetts Paid Family & Medical Leave: Top 10 Things Employers Need to Know

With the official release of the final regulations, everything is now in place for the Massachusetts Paid Family & Medical Leave (PFML) effective date of January 1, 2021.  There were a number of new changes from the draft regulations, notably (see below for details):

  • Treatment for Substance Use Disorder can be defined as a serious health condition
  • New definition of an Extended Illness Leave Bank
  • Addresses coverage for former employees
  • Job protection begins on the first day of leave, with an initial 7-day waiting period for benefits

Download a copy of the final regulations here!


With these final regulations, the Massachusetts Family & Employment Security Trust Fund (i.e., the State Fund), and approved Private Plan carriers like ShelterPoint can now hone in on the details around the claims process, policies and procedures.
 

In light of these official regulations, here are some things for employers to keep in mind when preparing for the year ahead:

  1. Covered individuals can begin to receive benefits as early as January 1st, 2021 – this means some employees could be out as early as the very first day of next year!

    • Up to 20 weeks of Medical Leave benefits for a serious health condition that incapacitates them from working.

    • Up to 12 weeks to bond with their new child (including foster or adopted child) or to attend to family matters due to a military exigency.

    • Up to 26 weeks to care for a family member who is a covered servicemember. 

    • Later next year, effective July 1, 2021, employees can also take up to 12 weeks of family leave to care for a family member with a serious health condition.
         
  2. There is an initial 7-day waiting period (calendar days), which counts against the total available period of leave in a benefit year – exception: medical leave during pregnancy or recovery from childbirth followed by paid leave for bonding with your baby.  Job protection begins with this waiting period.
     

  3. Paid Family & Medical Leave is job protected, anti-retaliatory leave.
     

  4. Absence management may become more complex to track since leave can be taken on an intermittent basis: i.e., separate periods of time for the same qualifying reason rather than one continuous period of time.

  5. The contribution rate can change every year – something to look out for no later than October 1st each year. Sign up here to stay in the loop every year.
     

  6. The maximum weekly benefit amount may also change every year. Currently, it’s 64% of the state average weekly wage (SAWW) capped at $850.  The SAWW is set annually, no later than October 1st. We’ll keep you up to date on those annual changes – sign up here.
     

  7. A substance use disorder may be a serious health condition according to the final regulations and the employee may receive paid leave.  The employer may not take action against the employee or the family member providing care for a covered family member receiving treatment.  If an employer has an established policy applied evenly throughout the company that the employee will be terminated for a substance use disorder, then the employer is able to take action against that employee, whether or not the employee has taken leave.
     

  8. Massachusetts PFML defines Extended Illness Leave Bank, as a voluntary program where covered individuals may donate accrued leave time to fund a bank for the benefit of a co-worker experiencing a qualifying reason under PFML.
     

  9. Coverage for former employees has been defined as follows: if you have been separated from an employer for less than 26 weeks and are unemployed, then you file for PFML benefits through their former employer; if you have been separated from an employer for less than 26 weeks and are now working for a new employer, you would file for benefits through your new employer.
     

  10. Lastly, if you have a Private Plan:  your approved Private Plan must provide the same or better benefits than those outlined in the Paid Family & Medical Leave law; nor can it cost covered individuals more than what it cost them from the State Fund  – Not sure yet if a Private Plan is right for you or how to switch? Talk to your broker! There’s still plenty of time to go private. 

 

Stay tuned for more information on Massachusetts Paid Family & Medical Leave by subscribing to our updates.

 

This blog post is for informational purposes only and is not intended to provide legal counsel. Please consult with an appropriate professional for legal and compliance advice. Any Massachusetts Paid Family and Medical Leave (PFML) is as of the blog post’s date stamp; it is based on the applicable statutes and regulation, and may change as regulations evolve or the Commonwealth of Massachusetts issues guidance regarding PFML regulations. 

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