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Paid Family and Medical Leave in Massachusetts
Over the past few years, numerous states have passed laws providing for paid family and medical leave. Because the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provides for only unpaid leave, states like Massachusetts are stepping up to provide paid leave benefits that typically run concurrently with the FMLA if both apply.
Massachusetts’ new Paid Family and Medical Leave Act (PFML) went into effect in January 2019. The new law will allow eligible employees to take up to 12 weeks of paid family leave and up to 20 weeks of paid medical leave, for a combined maximum of up to 26 weeks per year, while being guaranteed that they will be able to return to the same position, with the same conditions, pay, and benefits.
One way to think about the PFML is as a combination of the FMLA and the Masschusettes’ unemployment insurance system. This is because, unlike the FMLA, the state law will cover virtually all financially eligible Massachusetts workers, including part-time, temporary, and seasonal workers, regardless of the size of the company they work for and the number of hours they have worked.
The law will also cover financially eligible workers who are within 26 weeks after leaving their former employers, as well as, self-employed individuals who have opted into the program and paid contributions.
Why Do We Need Paid Family Leave?
For too long, workers have struggled to maintain their jobs while having to care for a loved one who needs assistance or to attend to a specific family need, whether that was welcoming a new child into the family, caring for sick or injured relative, or dealing with the family pressures of a spouse, partner, child, or parent who has been deployed to active duty in the military.
These pressures often spill over into the workplace and affect a person’s job performance. But, research has shown that paid family leave can avoid these pressures and increase employee retention and job performance, which ultimately lowers costs for the employer as well.
With the PFML, Massachusetts workers no longer have to choose between caring for their loved ones and their jobs, because they now have insurance to cover these critical times.
Who is Financially Eligible for Paid Family & Medical Leave in Massachusetts?
To be financially eligible for PFML benefits, you must have received total wages from a Massachusetts employer or covered business entity during the 12 months prior to your claim that is:
- Equal to or greater than 30 times your weekly benefit amount, (approximately about 15 weeks of earnings); and
- Equal to or greater than $4700.
For most employees, it will not take more than seven or eight weeks of work to meet these requirements, and for many, it will take less than that. Consequently, all but very new employees will be eligible for PFML benefits, and even they may be eligible under their previous employer if they only left them within the previous 26 weeks.
What Benefits are Provided Under Massachusetts’ Paid Family Leave Act?
Starting in 2021, the new law will allow most Massachusetts workers to take a total of 26 weeks of paid leave per year. This can include up to 20 weeks of paid, job-protected medical leave for serious health conditions and up to 12 weeks of paid family leave for any of the following reasons:
- To care for a family member with a serious health condition (effective 7/1/21)
- To bond with a child during the first 12 months after his or birth, or the first 12 months of adoption or foster care placement
- For any qualifying exigency due to a family member being on active military duty or being notified of an impending call to active duty
- To care for a family member who is a covered service member injured in the line of duty
How Much Wage Replacement will I Receive For a Family or Medical Leave?
After a 7-day waiting period, you will be eligible for 80% of your wages, up to 50% of the average weekly wage in the state. Then, if you earn more than the state’s average weekly wage, you will receive an additional 50% of your wages above that amount, until you have reached a cap of $850 per week.
So, the more you earn, the more PFML benefits you will receive. But, you will never receive more than $850 per week.
What’s more, the 7-day waiting period (during which you may use accrued vacation or sick time) is not paid, but will count towards the number of weeks of leave you have taken.
Finally, these figures will be subject to change annually, depending on certain economic factors.
How Much Will I Need To Contribute To The System?
PFML benefits in Massachusetts will be funded by contributions made by both employees and employers through a statewide payroll tax. Most Massachusetts workers will begin making contributions to the fund on October 1st, 2019, when employers will be allowed to start deducting up to 38 cents from every $100 a worker makes.
For more information regarding the Paid Family & Medical Leave Act in Massachusetts, contact The Law Offices of Richard Mucci at 781-729-3999 to arrange a no-cost, no-obligation consultation.