After years of preparation, starting Jan. 1, 2021, Massachusetts will begin offering paid family and medical leave to eligible workers.
When Governor Baker signed the Massachusetts Paid Family and Medical Leave Act (PFMLA) into law, Massachusetts became one of six states that offer paid leave under specific circumstances. This leave is funded by employer and employee contributions alike. Payroll withholdings began in October 2019.
Below, we have outlined some of the most important aspects of the PFMLA that you need to know as an employer or employee in the state of Massachusetts.
What Is Paid Family Leave?
PFMLA gives eligible employees 12 weeks of job-protected paid time off for family leave for reasons we will outline below. The law also provides up to 20 weeks of job-protected leave for an eligible employee’s own serious health condition. A maximum of 26 weeks of combined leave can be taken a year.
Also of note, leave can be taken all at once or intermittently as needed.
Eligibility for Benefits
In order to qualify for paid family and medical leave, the employees must be:
- W-2 workers who work in Massachusetts, whether they are full time, part time or seasonal.
- Self-employed individuals.
- 1099-MISC workers who work in Massachusetts, do not qualify as independent contractors and make up more than 50% of their employer's workforce.
Up to 20 weeks of paid medical leave may be taken to manage a personal serious health condition. The reason and amount of paid leave are as follows:
- Up to 12 weeks can be used to care for a family member with a serious health condition.
- Up to 12 weeks may be used to bond with a child during the first 12 months after the child’s birth.
- Up to 12 weeks may be used to bond with a child during the first 12 months after adoption or foster care placement.
- Up to 26 weeks may be used to manage family affairs when a family member is on or has been called to active duty in the armed forces, including the National Guard or Reserve.
Timeline for Implementation
While contributions through payroll deductions were required starting Oct. 1, 2019, the timeline for receiving benefits is as follows:
- Jan. 1, 2021 - Employees can take family leave for birth, adoption or foster care; family leave to care for covered service members; and paid medical leave for a personal serious health condition.
- June 1, 2021 - Employees can take leave for a family member’s serious health condition.
Benefit Amount Details
The amount of benefits an employee can receive for PFML is based on their average weekly wage when they apply for that leave as well as the average weekly wage for workers throughout Massachusetts. It breaks down as follows:
- The part of your average weekly wage that is less than or equal to 50% of the average weekly wage for Commonwealth workers will be covered at a rate of 80%.
- If part of your average weekly wage is greater than 50% of the average weekly wage for Commonwealth workers, it will be covered at a rate of 50% up to the maximum allowed benefit amount.
Since the average weekly wage in the state was $1,431.66 in 2019, 50% of that is $715.83. Therefore, any amount of your own weekly wage that is less than or equal to $715.83 will be replaced at a rate of 80%. Any part of your average weekly wage that is greater than $715.83 will be replaced at a rate of 50% up to the maximum allowed benefit amount.
The maximum total amount that you can receive in PFML benefits right now is $850 per week. This will be updated when the average weekly wage is recalculated in October 2020.
It is essential for employers and employees alike to know that ins and outs of this rather new law before it may actually affect them. As always, you will also need to revisit your employee handbook to update any family or medical leave policies you already have in place to reflect this new law.
If you’re looking for guidance in making sure your policy and handbook clearly and accurately reflect the law, Complete Payroll can help. Our team has helped guide clients through similar state paid leave laws, and we can help you ensure you, your business or your family is protected.
Contact us today to find out how we can help you.