Locke Lord QuickStudy: Massachusetts Paid Family and Medical Leave Act – January 1 Implications

Locke Lord LLP
October 30, 2020

Although Massachusetts employers presumably have been preparing for and complying with the ‎Massachusetts Paid Family and Medical Leave Act (“MA PFMLA”) for more than a year, ‎January 1 marks the date when Massachusetts employees will first benefit from the MA ‎PFMLA’s provisions.

Starting on the first day of next year, employees will be eligible for an array of leave benefits ‎under the MA PFMLA.  Specifically, employees then will be allowed to take paid medical leave ‎to manage their own serious health conditions; and will be allowed to take paid family leave to ‎manage affairs while a family member is on active military duty overseas, care for a family ‎member who is a military service member with a serious health condition, or bond with a child ‎newly born, adopted, or placed in foster care.  Starting on July 1, 2021, employees also will be ‎eligible to take paid family leave to care for any family member with a serious health condition.‎  The maximum weekly benefit for all types of leave under the MA PFMLA will be $850.

The duration of the leave will depend on the type of leave taken:‎

  • To manage one’s own serious health condition: 20 weeks.‎
  • To manage affairs while a family member is on active military duty overseas: 12 weeks.‎
  • To care for a military service member with a serious condition: 26 weeks.‎
  • To bond with a child: 12 weeks.‎
  • To care for a family member’s serious health condition: 12 weeks.‎

An employee will be able to take both family and medical leave in a “benefit year” but the ‎aggregate total of leave may not exceed 26 weeks.  “Benefit year” is defined as the 52 ‎consecutive weeks beginning on the Sunday immediately preceding the day upon which an ‎employee becomes eligible for leave.

“Serious health conditions” include pregnancy; chronic conditions (such as diabetes) that prevent ‎an employee from working for certain periods of time and require going to the doctor more than ‎twice a year; permanent or long-term conditions (such as cancer) requiring ongoing attention but ‎will not necessarily need active treatment; and conditions requiring multiple treatments (such as ‎dialysis or physical therapy).  “Family member” includes a covered employee’s spouse, domestic ‎partner, child, parent, parent of a spouse, grandchild, grandparent or sibling.‎

An important consideration for employers under the MA PFMLA is that they can opt-out of the ‎law if they provide benefits to their employees that are equal to or greater than the benefits ‎provided by the MA PFMLA.  Such employers, however, must apply for an exemption with the ‎Department of Family and Medical Leave.‎

Lastly, although they provide similar benefits in certain situations, the MA PFMLA differs in ‎important ways from the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”).  Perhaps most ‎importantly, the MA PFMLA provides for paid leave and employers are responsible for ‎collecting and paying contributions on their behalf; in contrast, the FMLA provides for unpaid ‎leave, so employers do not have a responsibility to collect or remit contributions.  Other critical ‎differences include the fact that Massachusetts employers of any size may be subject to the MA ‎PFMLA, while the FMLA only applies to employers with 50 or more employees, and the fact ‎that eligibility for MA PFMLA benefits is not dependent on how long an individual has worked ‎for his or her current employer, while employees are not eligible for FMLA benefits until they ‎have worked for their current employer for at least 12 months.‎

Massachusetts employers should be aware of these and other critical provisions of the MA ‎PFMLA as January 1, 2021 approaches.‎