Important Updates to the Massachusetts Paid Family and Medical Leave Law
Recent amendments to the Massachusetts Paid Family and Medical Leave (PFML) law will allow employees to supplement, or “top off,” their weekly PFML benefits with their accrued paid leave starting November 1, 2023. Additionally, effective January 1, 2024, weekly benefits and contribution rates will increase.
The PFML law provides eligible Massachusetts employees with paid time off for qualifying family and medical reasons such as caring for their own serious health condition, caring for a family member with a serious health condition, bonding with a newborn or adopted child, caring for a family member who was injured while serving in the armed forces, and managing affairs while a family member is on active duty.
Eligible employees may take up to 20 weeks of medical leave and 12 weeks of family leave (26 weeks to care for a family member who is a covered service member), all job protected, with an aggregate cap of 26 weeks for each benefit year. PFML is a state program administered by the Department of Family and Medical Leave (DFML) and is funded by employer and employee contributions.
Employers have the option of participating in the state administered PFML plan or establishing a private PFML plan (self-insured or through insurance carrier). The private plan must (a) offer benefits equal to or greater than benefits offered by the state plan, (b) provide benefits at a cost less than or equal to the state plan, (c) extend the same job protections as the state plan, and (d) be approved by DFML.
- Topping Off Benefits with Accrued Paid Leave
Currently, employees receiving benefits from the state plan are not permitted to supplement, or “top off,” their benefits with accrued paid time off such as vacation time, sick time, compensatory time, and personal days. Accrued paid leave can be used during the initial seven-day waiting period of the PFML when no benefits are available. Additionally, employees, at their discretion, may use accrued paid leave in lieu of receiving PFML benefits.
Employers who maintain a private plan have the option of allowing employees to top off their benefits with accrued paid leave.
Beginning November 1, 2023, employees covered under both the state and private plans are permitted to top off their PFML benefits with accrued paid leave. Employees are not required to use their accrued paid leave; but, instead, they will have the option to top off their benefits with accrued paid leave. PFML benefits plus top off amounts cannot exceed 100% of the employees’ weekly wages.
- Benefit Amount
Presently, the maximum weekly benefit amount employees can receive is $1,129.82. On Jan 1, 2024, the weekly maximum benefit amount will increase to $1,149.90.
- Contribution Rate
Effective January 1, 2024, the combined contribution rate for employers with 25 or more covered employees will increase from .63% to .88% of employees’ eligible wages. The combined contribution rate for employers with less than 25 covered employees will increase from .318 % to .46% of employees’ eligible wages. Details regarding the breakdown of contributions required by employers and employees for family and medical leave are provided on the DFML website.
Considerations for Employers
Massachusetts employers should watch for guidance from DFML regarding compliance with the changes to PFML, including required notices. This guidance is expected in the upcoming weeks. Additionally, employers should consider reviewing their employee handbooks and policies related to PFML, vacation leave, sick leave, and other paid time off, as well as related policies, and make any necessary adjustments to ensure compliance with the changes to PFML.
If you have questions about the new Massachusetts’ PFML law, please contact Lorna Hebert at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lorna Hebert is an employment, labor, higher education, and litigation attorney with over 30 years of experience handling a broad range of complex employment and labor matters. Lorna advises clients on a wide range of employment matters, including workplace investigations, dispute resolution, hiring, performance management, discipline, terminations, reorganizations, accommodations, employee benefits, wage and hour issues, discrimination claims, policies and procedures, and training.
This publication should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion on any specific facts or circumstances not an offer to represent you. It is not intended to create, and receipt does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship. The contents are intended for general informational purposes only, and you are urged to consult your attorney concerning any particular situation and any specific legal questions you may have. Pursuant to applicable rules of professional conduct, portions of this publication may constitute Attorney Advertising.