Massachusetts Paid Family Medical Leave: what it means


Last year, Massachusetts governor Charlie Baker signed a bill into law that included, among other things, a requirement for employers to provide paid leave for covered employees under certain circumstances.

March 31, 2019 Proposed regulations published
July 1, 2019 Begin collecting payroll tax
January 1, 2021 Begin to pay leave benefits

While the program will not be fully effective until 2021, employer compliance requirements begin this year, so it is critical that Massachusetts employers review and understand their obligations under the program.

As of 2021, employers will be required to provide paid leave to employees for the purposes of:

  • Caring for a sick family member or newborn child (12 weeks)
  • Manage their own serious health condition (20 weeks)
  • Qualifying exigency related to active duty (26 weeks)

The Massachusetts act also requires that companies protect the employment of workers out on paid leave, ensuring that their jobs are available when they are able to return to work.

Paid leave will be funded through payroll taxes, which begin on July 1, 2019. Employees will be able to take advantage of the program as of January 1, 2021.

All employers must comply, regardless of size

While the FMLA ensures that employee jobs are protected while out on a qualifying leave, it covers only those employers with 50 or more employees. The Massachusetts law, on the other hand, has no minimum number of employees – employees throughout the state may qualify for benefits, regardless of the size of the company they work for.

Further, current employees, recently terminated employees, and the self-employed may be eligible for paid leave. There is no length of service requirement for an employee to be covered under the law; and former employees whose termination was less than 26 weeks prior may qualify as well.

Intermittent leave or a reduced schedule may also be permitted for employees that need to take care of their own, or a family member’s serious health condition; however, this kind of leave is not available for child bonding or active duty exigencies unless the employee and employer agree.

Payroll tax requirements

As of July 1, 2019, an employer must contribute 0.63 percent of employee wages to the Family and Employment Security Trust Fund. Employers with more than 25 employees can deduct up to 40% of the contribution from employee wages for medical leave, or 100% of the deduction for family leave. Employers with fewer than 25 employees are exempt from paying the employer portion of the premium.

The weekly benefit to employees is capped at $850, or 80% of average weekly wage; and may be reduced by amounts paid through worker’s compensation or permanent disability benefits.

A quick summary of the existing law may be found in the video below:

If you have any questions or concerns regarding the Massachusetts Paid Family Leave Law, or would like guidance on preparing for compliance, contact the Brown Law Firm today at (617) 489-0817.

Boston Bar Assosiation