Proposed Regulations Implementing Massachusetts' Paid Family and Medical Leave Law

The Massachusetts Department of Family and Medical Leave (the "Department") has released proposed regulations explaining the rights and responsibilities of employers and employees under Massachusetts Paid Family and Medical Leave Law (the "Law"). The Law requires most private employers in Massachusetts to provide covered individuals with paid family and medical leave funded through a payroll tax (imposed at a rate of .63% of wages).

Background. The Law provides that, effective January 2021, Massachusetts employees will be entitled to receive, on an annual basis:

  • Medical leave of up to 20 weeks for the employee's own health condition;
  • Family leave, generally up to 12 weeks, to care for family members; and
  • Combined medical and family leave of up to 26 weeks. 

On July 1, 2019, the Department will begin collecting "contributions" (through a payroll tax) from employers, employees and self-employed individuals to finance these paid leaves. Employers averaging less than 25 employees are exempt from paying the employer share of these contributions.

Proposed Regulations. Highlights from the Law's proposed regulations include:

  • Quarterly Filings: Covered employers will be required to file quarterly reports with the Department that provide the name, social security number and compensation of each employee and contracted service provider.
    • NOTE: The proposed regulations do not state when employers must begin filing these quarterly reports with the Department.
  • Employee and Workforce Count: An employer's average number of employees will be determined by counting all full-time, part-time, seasonal and temporary employees on the employer's payroll during each pay period and dividing by the number of pay periods in the previous calendar year.
    • NOTE: Contract workers for whom employers file IRS Forms 1099 must also be included in this count.
  • Private Leave Plan Exemption: Employers with a private leave plan may apply to be exempted from the medical coverage, leave coverage, or both. Exemption applications will only be approved where the employer's private leave plan confers the same rights, protections and benefits as are provided under the Law.
  • Employee Notice Requirement: Employees must provide employers with at least 30 days' notice of: (i) the anticipated start date of the leave; (ii) the anticipated length of the leave; (iii) the type of leave; and (iv) the individual's expected return date. The proposed regulations allow an employee to provide notice "as soon as practicable" if he or she cannot provide 30 days' notice for reasons beyond their control.
  • Claims for Benefits: The proposed regulations provide additional information on the timeline for the submission and processing of claims for benefits.
Employer Action Steps. Although employees will not eligible to apply for paid leave under the Law until January 2021, Massachusetts employers must begin paying the applicable payroll tax starting July 1, 2019. The Department intends to release final regulations on collecting contributions and processing benefits under the Law by March 31, 2019. Accordingly, Massachusetts employers are advised to keep watch for forthcoming guidance from the Department on their responsibilities under the Law.

The proposed regulations are available by clicking here.