Massachusetts Paid Family & Medical Leave

Massachusetts Paid Family & Medical Leave
MA license plate At some point, nearly everyone will need to take time away from a job for family or medical reasons. The federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) of 1993 guarantees eligible employees up to 12 weeks of leave without the threat of losing their benefits or their job. But the FMLA’s protection is limited: it assures only unpaid leave, which many workers can’t afford, and applies only to businesses with 50 or more employees.
 
Under the provisions of the FMLA, the states may offer broader coverage to more people, and several states now mandate some form of paid family and medical leave coverage for their workers. Other states have various paid leave bills in progress. While this may be good news for employees, it places new administration demands on employers.
 
This is our first in an ongoing series of updates on paid family and medical leave developments – so you can be prepared to fulfill all mandated requirements. This release features highlights for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, one of the most recent states to mandate paid leave.
 
Massachusetts signed its paid family and medical leave program into law on June 28, 2018. Some benefits become available under the plan as early as January 1, 2021. With a few exceptions, all employers are required to participate in the state program or by offering a private plan option. Almost all employees are eligible to receive benefits.
Frequently Asked Questions
Eligible employees can take leave to:
 
  • Welcome a new child (through birth, adoption, or foster placement)
  • Recover from a personal illness or injury
  • Care for an ill or injured relative
  • Care for an injured (while in the line of duty) or sick service member
  • Respond to certain military-connected events
Employees may be entitled to one of the following leaves each year:
 
  • Up to 12 weeks of family leave (includes active duty family military leave + bonding time)
  • Up to 12 weeks care of family member
  • Up to 20 weeks of personal medical leave
  • Up to 26 weeks of caregiver benefit for service member
  • A total of 26 weeks for a combination of paid family and medical leave
During the leave period, eligible employees will be paid a percentage of their gross wage, not to exceed $850 per week in 2021.
The program is funded through premiums equal to 0.75 percent of each employee’s wages, up to the Social Security maximum. You and your employees share the cost:
 
  • Medical leave – 40 percent paid by employee, 60 percent paid by you
  • Family leave – 100 percent paid by employee, 0 percent paid by you
Beginning October 1, 2019, you must begin withholding employee contributions through payroll deduction and hold the funds collected in a special account specifically identified for this purpose. Note that if more than 50 percent of your workforce are 1099 contractors, those contractors are considered “covered individuals.” You must remit contributions for them just as you do for your other employees.
 
The employer remits premiums collected to the state on a quarterly basis. The due date is the last day of the month following the close of the previous calendar quarter.
If you are a small business with fewer than 25 employees, you are not required to pay the employer portion of the premium. Your employees will still pay into the program, though, and can take advantage of full leave benefits.
Businesses and organizations with one or more employees are subject to the PFML law. Exceptions include:
 
  • Self-employed individuals (may opt in to the state plan)
  • Municipal employers (may opt in if city or town decides to take part in program)
To qualify for benefits, the employee must have 15 weeks or more of earnings totaling at least $4,700 in the 12-month period before applying for benefits. All paid work over the course of the year counts toward this requirement, including part-time, seasonal, and temporary work.
You can opt out of either the state family leave or state medical leave plan if you have a state-approved private paid-leave program, including a self-insured plan with private administration. Private plans must offer comparable or more generous benefits than the state plan. Once you are approved to self-insure a private plan, all contributions from approval date forward, will go towards your private plan instead of the state plan.
 
  • Private plans need to be approved by the state each year.
  • The contribution amount to a private plan is the same as for the state plan. Employers may waive employee contributions if they wish.
  • The employer must hold all premiums collected and any income earned in a trust account specifically identified for that purpose within a financial institution.
  • Self-insured employer plans must be bonded at the start. The Massachusetts Department of Family Medical Leave requires that for every 25 employees a self-insured plan has a bond value of:
    • $19,000 for family leave
    • $51,000 for medical leave
    • $70,000 for both family and medical leave
Massachusetts employers are required to distribute materials notifying employees of PFML benefits and withholdings. Workplace posters must be displayed by September 30. Employers are also required to provide written notice to each employee. Notices must include the opportunity for an employee or self-employed individual to acknowledge receipt or decline to acknowledge receipt of the information.
 
The state provides posters and notices in 12 languages in addition to English and requires employers post notices in the primary language for five or more employees.

What Is the Current Status of the State Plan’s Implementation?

Final regulations were released in June. Official regulations will be posted after July 1.  Employee and Employer contributions now begin October 1, 2019 – the state previously announced July 1 as the start of contributions. Employers have an extension until December 20, 2019 to apply for a private plan exemption.
 
Learn more about how The Hartford partners with employers on Massachusetts Paid Family and Medical Leave self-insured private plans.
Please reach out to your representative at The Hartford for additional information or have an employee benefits representative from The Hartford contact you.
 
 
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This informational material is subject to change as we continue to receive guidance from each state. It shall not be considered legal advice. The Hartford assumes no responsibility for legal compliance with respect to your business practices, and the views and recommendations contained herein shall not constitute our undertaking on your behalf, or for the benefit of others, to determine or warrant that your business operations are in compliance with any law, rule, or regulation. Those seeking resolution of specific legal or business issues, questions, or concerns regarding this topic should consult their own attorney or business advisors.
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