Family caregiver obligations, like the arrival of a new child or a serious medical condition, typically requires long periods that conflict with work time and is often unpaid.
Starting January 1, 2021, most Massachusetts workers will be eligible for paid family and medical leave under the Paid Family and Medical Leave (PFML) law. Paid Family Medical Leave allows employees to take paid time off from work to care for family members who are very ill or have a serious health condition. The new law provides job protection to all covered individuals working in Massachusetts.
What Employees Should Know
Beginning January 1, 2021, covered individuals may be eligible to receive up to:
- 12 weeks of paid family leave in a benefit year for the birth, adoption, or foster care placement of a child, or because of a qualifying exigency arising out of the fact that a family member is on active duty or has been notified of an impending call to active duty in the Armed Forces;
- 20 weeks of paid medical leave in a benefit year if they have a serious health condition that incapacitates them from work;
- 26 weeks of paid family leave in a benefit year to care for a family member who is a covered service member undergoing medical treatment or otherwise addressing consequences of a serious health condition relating to the family member’s military service.
Beginning July 1, 2021, covered individuals may be eligible to receive up to:
- 12 weeks of paid family leave in a benefit year to care for a family member with a serious health condition;
- 26 total weeks, in the aggregate, of paid family and medical leave in a single benefit year
The weekly benefit amount will be based on the employee’s earnings, with a maximum benefit of 64 percent of the Massachusetts Statewide Average Weekly Wage, approximately $850 per week. Benefits are subject to change annually as set forth by Massachusetts Department of Family and Medical Leave (DFML) and will be finalized prior to January 1, 2021.
What Employers Should Know
Post a Workplace PFML Poster
The Massachusetts Department of Family and Medical Leave released its required workplace poster and employee notices to inform employees about their rights and responsibilities under the MA PFML Act.
The poster (PDF) includes key implementation dates to inform employees that payroll deductions to fund PFML benefits will begin on October 1, 2019 (extended from July 1, 2019), with benefits beginning on January 1, 2021 and July 1, 2021. The poster also outlines weekly benefits, job protection, anti-discrimination and retaliation protection, and private plans.
All Massachusetts employers must display this approved poster in a conspicuous workplace location where it may be easily read. For employers who have five or more individuals whose primary language is not English, translated posters in the applicable language(s) must be displayed as well. Currently, the Department offers online posters in Arabic, Chinese, French, Haitian Creole, Italian, Khmer, Korean, Lao, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, and Vietnamese.
Provide Notice of PFML to Employees
Massachusetts employers must also provide individual written PFML notices to their current workforce by September 30, 2019 (extended from June 30, 2019), and to all newly hired employees thereafter (within 30 days of the first date of employment). The notice may be provided electronically and must be written in the employee’s primary language. Employers must also implement a process to allow each employee to acknowledge receipt or decline to acknowledge receipt of the notice, either in paper or electronic form.
Written notice to employees (W-2 workers) must include:
- An explanation of the availability of PFML benefits;
- Employee and employer contribution amounts and obligations;
- Employer’s name, mailing address, and ID number (as assigned by the Department);
- Instructions on how to file a claim for PFML benefits; and
- The Department’s mailing address, email address and telephone number.
- Sample notices in English and other languages are available on the Department’s website.
Provide PFML Notices to Contractors
Employers also must also provide written notice about the MA PFML to contract workers (1099-MISC) by September 30, 2019 (extended from June 30, 2019). Like the notice to employees, the notice to contractors must be written in the contractor’s primary language and employers must obtain a written statement from the contractor acknowledging receipt or denial of acknowledgment of receipt of the notice. Sample notices for use with contractors are also provided on the Department’s website in multiple languages.
Employers who fail to provide the required notifications face significant fines on a per-employee/worker basis. For a first violation, the fine is $50 per employee or contractor. Second violations will result in fines of $300 per employee or contractor.
Private Plan Exemption Process
Employers have the option to file for an exemption from the state-run program administered by the Department of Family and Medical Leave (the “Department of FML”) and making contributions to the Department of FML with MassTaxConnect, and instead, submitting an employer voluntary plan (a private insurer plan or self-funded plan) for approval. Additional information on the application process can be found on MA PFML webpage, Paid Family and Medical Leave Exemption Application Process for Employees.
The Department’s current guidance requires that exemptions for private plans must be approved in the quarter prior to the quarter in which they will go into effect. For Quarter 1 only, however, the deadline to file for a private plan exemption that will be in effect for first quarter contributions for paid family and medical leave has been moved from extended to December 20, 2019 from the prior deadline of September 20, 2019.
This will allow employers additional time to contemplate private plan options. Going forward, the Department will continue to accept applications on a rolling basis, but applications must be approved in the quarter prior to the quarter in which they go into effect.
What Employers Need to Do
Massachusetts employers should complete the following steps:
- Download the MA PFML workplace poster in English and any other languages applicable to their workforce and post them at their worksites in conspicuous places by September 30, 2019.
- Send out individual written notices to all current employees and 1099 contractors in each worker’s primary language no later than September 30, 2019 (extended from June 30).
- Retain the signed acknowledgment-of-receipt forms.
- Update onboarding documentation to include the written MA PFML notice so that new hires receive the required PFML information within 30 days of hire.
- Review MA paid leave benefit requirements and contemplate whether they wish to pursue a private plan offering and apply for an exemption from making contributions by the December 20, 2019 deadline OR if they intend to provide the required coverage through the MA PFML state program.
- Educate and inform their respective payroll department/ payroll vendor or their coverage decision. If maintaining state coverage, advise payroll department/vendor to initiate the employee payroll withholdings for PFML contributions starting October 1. If approved for private plan exemption, advise payroll department/vendor accordingly, that the payroll withholdings for PFML contributions will not be required until the plan effective date of 01/01/2021.
What Guardian is Doing
Guardian is committed to offering a private plan option to assist employers in meeting their obligation to provide Massachusetts’ state mandated PFML coverage. Our product offering will provide a fully insured product compliant with MA PFML law for employers with 25 or more MA covered individuals. Please consult your Guardian Sales Consultant for quoting requirements and additional information concerning a MA PFML private plan option through Guardian.
Download the MA PFML Fact Sheet (PDF) for more details.