Employers and employees alike have probably heard talk of the recent Massachusetts Paid Family and Medical Leave. While companies must be aware of this benefit and how it works, it’s also crucial that employees understand the leave program and how they can use it.
Our guide for employees, we’re breaking it down by five of the most common questions:
- What is Massachusetts Paid Family and Medical Leave?
- What kind of workers are eligible?
- How does MA PFML work?
- When can employees use it?
- How can I apply?
What is Massachusetts Paid Family & Medical Leave?
Massachusetts Paid Family and Medical Leave (PFML) is a state-offered benefit for Massachusetts workers, run by the state’s Department of Family and Medical Leave (DFML). It provides up to 26 weeks of paid leave per benefit year for medical or family reasons. The PFML is funded through a state tax and is separate from both the FMLA and leave benefits your employer may offer.
Learn more about MA Earned Sick Leave Law, another essential benefit for Commonwealth workers.
What kind of workers are eligible?
Most Massachusetts workers are eligible for PFML, including W-2 employees, self-employed individuals, and 1099-MISC contractors.
This means full-time, part-time, or seasonal employees. Former W-2 employees can also qualify if they are unemployed and have been separated for 26 weeks or less at the start of their leave, regardless of the termination reason.
Out-of-state employees are also eligible if the employer reported their wages to the Department of Unemployment Assistance.
Self-employed individuals may opt into PFML coverage by making the payroll contribution. A self-employed worker must contribute for at least two of their last four completed calendar quarters before they are eligible for benefits.
1099-MISC contractors who do not qualify as independent contractors and work for a business with a workforce made up of at least 50% 1099-MISC contractors are also eligible for PFML.
How does MA PFML work?
Get the low-down on how PFML is funded and administered.
PMFL is a tax of no more than 0.75% of your eligible wages paid by you and your employer. This amount varies depending on how much is being contributed by each party. The maximum that could come out of your paycheck is $0.38 per $100.
Employers were required to start contributing to the Department effective October 1, 2019, unless approved for a private plan exemption. The employer’s private plan would need to provide paid leave benefits equal to or more generous than those provided under the DFML’s program.
The amount you are eligible to receive is calculated based on your average weekly earnings when you apply for leave and the average weekly wage for MA workers. Currently, this amount is capped at a maximum weekly benefit amount of $850 per week.
The DFML reevaluates the average weekly wage in MA each October. The new maximum benefit amount begins on January 1 of the following year.
The benefit year:
- Is a rolling calendar of 52 weeks
- Starts on the first week that you take leave through any program
- Is calculated on weeks beginning on Sundays
For example, if you start your leave on a Wednesday, your benefit year starts the Sunday before starting your PFML, which is the beginning of that week.
7-Day Waiting Period
There is a seven-day waiting period before an employee can receive the weekly benefit amount. This week is unpaid and counts against your total available leave for the benefit year. For example, if you’re approved for 10 weeks of PFML, you’ll receive 9 weeks of paid benefits.
If you are approved for intermittent leave, the waiting period will be seven consecutive days after your leave begins, whether you take leave on those days or not.
This waiting period applies for each instance of paid leave you take, with one exception: A new mother takes medical leave either during pregnancy or to recover from childbirth. They then choose to take family leave to bond with a child immediately after the medical leave. There will be a waiting period for their medical leave, but it will be waived for the family leave.
You may choose to use your accrued paid time off (PTO) during the waiting period, but your employer cannot require you to use PTO during this time. If you opt to use PTO, you will need to:
- Use it over a continuous, uninterrupted block of time before or after your PFML benefits start or end date.
- Use it only once during your leave period.
- Come to an agreement with your employer on your PTO and schedule before your leave starts.
- You’re approved for 10 weeks of PFML and use 1 week of PTO. You will receive your full salary during the waiting week and 9 weeks of paid benefits from the DFML.
- If you choose to use 2 weeks of PTO at the beginning of your 10-week leave, you will receive your full salary during that time. You’ll then receive 8 weeks of PFML.
When can employees use it?
MA PFML is available for:
- Up to 20 weeks: For a worker care to for their own serious health condition
- Up to 12 weeks: For a worker to a) bond with a child after the child’s birth, adoption, or foster care placement, or b) address a need due to a family member’s active duty or impending call to active duty in the armed forces
- Up to 26 weeks: For a worker to care for a family member who is a covered servicemember with a serious health condition
- Up to 12 weeks: For a worker to care for a family member with a serious health condition (beginning July 1, 2021)
A serious health condition is a physical or mental condition that prevents you from doing your job for more than three consecutive full calendar days and requires:
- Two or more treatments by a healthcare provider (in-person or telehealth visit) within 30 calendar days of an inability to perform your duties, or
- Overnight stay in a hospital, hospice, or medical facility, or
- At least one treatment by a healthcare provider within 30 days of an inability to perform your duties, with plans for continued treatment, including prescriptions
Learn more about what types of health conditions are covered from the Mass.gov PFML benefits guide.
How can I apply?
Talk to your employer to find out if you’re covered. You will need to provide them notice of your need to take leave.
Next, you’ll apply for PFML directly through the DFML, which determines your eligibility and administers PFML. As long as you have informed your employer and have all of your verification documents ready, the online application should only take you 15 minutes to complete.
Here’s what happens when you apply:
- Your employer receives an email notification from the DFML about your application.
- Your employer should confirm whether you have available PFML for the type of leave requested, how much PFML you have remaining in the benefit year, and whether your work pattern or hours indicate fraud.
- Your employer has 10 business days to review your application and respond to the DFML with the requested information. If your employer fails to respond promptly, the DFML will proceed with the application using only the information you provided.
Find out what to expect when you apply for MA PFML and which documents are required.
Both employees and employers with questions about MA PFML eligibility, how the benefit works, or the application process are welcome to contact BlueLion for guidance at firstname.lastname@example.org or 603-818-4131. Our human resource experts will be happy to walk workers through the process and help employers handle the benefit properly.
The information on this website, including its newsletters, is not, nor is it intended to be legal advice. You should contact an attorney or HR specialist for advice on your individual situation.