Everything You Need to Know About Massachusetts’ New Paid Family Medical Leave Act

Milton Kerstein Employment Law, Milton L. Kerstein

Beginning January 1, 2021, Massachusetts employees are eligible for a new state-offered benefit granting up to 26 weeks of job protected leave for medical and family reasons. Paid Family Medical Leave (PFML) is a benefit separate from the federal government’s Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and any benefits offered by an employer. All Massachusetts employers, regardless of size, are required to participate.

Here is a summary of the important facts, the highlights, and key takeaways of the PFML.

Job Protection: PFML requires employers to provide an employee with the opportunity to return to their previous position, or a position of similar responsibility and compensation upon returning from leave. Additionally, during leave, employers are required to maintain the employee’s health insurance at the same level the employee had prior to taking leave.

Reasons for Leave: PFML provides Massachusetts workers up to 12 weeks of paid family leave, up to 20 weeks of paid medical leave, and up to 26 weeks of combined family and medical leave within any given benefit year. Types of leave include:

  • Care for a family member with a serious health condition. This 12-week benefit becomes available July 1, 2021.
  • Bond with a child during the first 12 months after the child’s birth (12 weeks).
  • Bond with a child during the first 12 months after adoption or foster care placement (12 weeks).
  • Care for a family member who is or was a member of the Armed Forces, National Guard or Reserves and developed or aggravated a serious health condition in line of duty on active duty while deployed to a foreign country (26 weeks).
  • Manage family affairs when a family member is on or has been called to active duty in a foreign country while in the armed forces, including the National Guard or Reserves (12 weeks).
  • Manage the employee’s own serious health condition (20 weeks).

Who Qualifies: All employers regardless of size are required to participate and all employees who have earned at least $5,100 in the previous 12 months are eligible. Employees who are W-2 workers, full time, part time, and seasonal, self-employed persons,* and 1099 workers who do not qualify as independent contractors and who make up more than 50% of their employer’s workforce all qualify.

FMLA v. PFML: As stated, PFML provides paid leave to all eligible Massachusetts employees while FMLA provides unpaid job protected leave only for employers with 50 or more employees or smaller employers that choose to participate. It is important to understand that FMLA and PFML are not mutually exclusive. As an employee, you may qualify for both. However, if you receive benefits under both FMLA and PFML, these benefits run simultaneous with each other, not consecutively.

For more information, you may view the fact sheet prepared by the Massachusetts government.

If you have any questions or concerns about your rights as an employee or your obligations as an employer under Massachusetts’ PFML, contact Milton L. Kerstein or Hannah Konowitz at KCL for a free consultation.

*Self-employed individuals may elect coverage under PFML. If coverage is elected, you are responsible for the full 75% contribution rate for family and medical leave. Additionally, you will not be eligible for benefits under PFML until you have made the required contribution for at least 2 quarters of the calendar year.