Massachusetts has enacted a mandatory statewide paid family and medical leave program which will be administered by a newly created Department of Family and Medical Leave (the “Department”) within the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development.
Beginning in 2021, most employees will be eligible to take up to 12 weeks of protected paid leave: (i) to bond with his/her child during the first 12 months after the child’s birth or the first 12 months after the placement of the child for adoption or foster care; (ii) to care for a family member with a serious health condition, or (iii) because of any qualifying exigency arising out of the fact that a family member is on active duty or has been notified of an impending call or order to active duty in the Armed Forces. Employees will also be eligible for 20 weeks of paid medical leave for their own serious health conditions and 26 weeks of paid family leave to care for a covered service member. Total family and medical leave will be capped at 26 weeks per year, and will run concurrently with Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”) leave.
While on family and medical leave, employees will be paid 80% of their salary up to 50% of the average weekly wage, plus 50% of their salary exceeding 50% of the average weekly wage, up to a maximum of $850 per week. These amounts may be adjusted annually.
There is a seven day waiting period before family and medical leave payments begin. Employees may, however, utilize accrued sick or vacation pay or other paid leave provided under their employers’ leave policies during the seven-day wait period.
The leave program will be financed through employer and employee contributions. Effective July 1, 2019, employers must begin to remit contributions to the Family and Employment Security Trust Fund. Small businesses of fewer than 25 employees will not be required to pay the employer share of the contribution.
The Department will issue final regulations before July 1, 2019, establishing procedures for the collection of contributions, and for the filing and timely processing of claims for leave benefits.
Employers may apply to the Department of family and medical leave for approval to meet their paid family and medical leave obligations through a private plan. In order to be approved as meeting an employer’s obligations under this law, a private plan must, at a minimum, confer all of the same rights, protections and benefits provided to employees who receive family and medical leave benefits through the Department. The Wagner Law Group will be prepared to assist employers who want to apply for a waiver from the Department because they will continue to provide family and medical leave through their own plans.
Employers will need to have procedures in place to remit employer and employee contributions before July 1, 2019. When final regulations are issued, employers should review their leave programs and disability plans to ensure that they are properly coordinated with the paid family and medical leave.