On June 28, 2018, Governor Charlie Baker signed the Massachusetts Paid Family and Medical Leave Act into law, adding Massachusetts to a growing list of states mandating paid leave for families.
UPDATED JUNE 28, 2019
If you’re planning on having a baby, here’s what you need to know.
While the law went into effect on January 1, 2019, benefits for parental leave won’t be available until January 1, 2021.
What you’ll get:
Under the new law, new parents will be eligible for 12 weeks of paid parental leave following the birth or adoption of a child. You’ll be eligible to receive a weekly payment equal to 80% of the first $669 of your weekly take-home pay plus 50% of your earnings above $669, capping at a maximum payment of $850 per week.
For example, if you take home $1100 per week, you’d be looking at $750.70 ($535.20 from the first $669 of your pay, plus $215.50 from the remaining $431).
The cap will be adjusted annually, as the formula is based on the state’s average weekly wages.
This is meant to be an “at minimum” benefit, meaning the benefits you receive from your employer are not limited by the state’s mandate. Your employer may choose to supplement either your take-home pay or provide additional time. Your employer will clarify if additional benefits run concurrently with or in addition to benefits available to you under the new law. In either case, your employer cannot require you to use personal paid time off (vacation, sick, personal time, etc.) during the 12-week leave.
Your employer is required to continue your health-insurance based benefits while you are on leave.
Additionally, taking leave cannot affect your accrual of vacation time, sick time, or bonuses. It also cannot affect your eligibility for advancement, seniority, or any other benefit, plan or program you may be eligible for from your employer.
There is a one-week waiting period between your leave and when you’re eligible to start drawing benefits. Make sure you have a financial plan in place to cover this gap, if necessary.
Exceptions and eligibility
While there are a few exceptions - namely some religious institutions - the law is broad-reaching to Massachusetts companies regardless of the number of employees. This is great news, as many employees are ineligible for federal FMLA policies as their companies are small or employees work remotely. But like FMLA, your job is protected while you are on leave.
Another important note - you must work for a company that contributes to the state’s unemployment insurance fund. Unfortunately, living in the Commonwealth while working for an out-of-state company doesn’t qualify you to receive benefits.
And finally, for you to be eligible you must have made more than $4,700 over the prior year. Self-employed individuals must have worked for at least the prior 4 quarters to receive benefits, and are expected to continue working for the next 3 years (you’ll still be eligible to use benefits during those years though!).
How is this funded?
The leave policy will be funded by a new payroll tax, which goes into effect on October 1, 2019. This tax will be collected at a rate of 0.75% of the first $128,400 of income. For people working at companies with fewer than 25 employees, individuals will pay 100% of this cost, while larger companies will likely divide up the added tax cost between employer and employee.
The paid parental leave is just one part of the Massachusetts Paid Family and Medical Leave law. Paid leave may also be taken for medical leave for yourself (up to 20 weeks) or family members (up to 12 weeks) or to care for a family member with a medical condition as a result of being on active military duty (up to 26 weeks).
Benefits are capped at 26 weeks in a year, regardless of the number of events.
As always, this is not meant to be construed as legal or financial advice. Always consult with your human resources/benefits department for clarification. Seek guidance from MassPFML@Mass.gov with questions.