With all the stress and upheaval of COVID, it is understandable if the launch of active benefits under the 2018 Massachusetts Paid Family and Medical Leave (PFML) law slipped by many employers. It is an important launch that deserves attention.
Summary of MA Paid Family Medical Leave Benefits
As a quick review, PFML offers covered employees up to
- 12 weeks of paid family leave (including for the birth/adoption or effective July 1, 2021 care for a family member with a serious health condition),
- 26 weeks of paid leave to care for a service member injured in the line of duty,
- 20 weeks of paid medical leave for an individual’s own serious health condition.
Covered workers are eligible for no more than 26 total weeks, in the aggregate, of family and medical leave in a single benefit year.
Steps to Prepare for PMFL
Employers should consider steps to prepare for PMFL so the first request for leave does not risk an unpleasant outcome.
- Evaluate staff positions and form a plan for replacing the contributions that employees provide. Determine which positions need a replacement during an absence that could last up to 26 weeks?
- Assign responsibility for reviewing and responding to PMFL leave request notifications. Once received, the employer has 10 days to respond. If no response is received, the Commonwealth will proceed with approval using employee-provided information. Notification details are available HERE (Employer’s guide to paid family and medical leave | Mass.gov)
- Review and update the employee handbook(s) to make sure that PFML is included, expectations are clear, and employees are properly notified of their benefit options.
- Make sure that employment posters are current and include PMFL.
- Distribute and collect a signed PMFL acknowledgment form from each employee stating that they have received notification of PMFL from the employer. Notification requirements are detailed HERE (Employer’s guide to paid family and medical leave | Mass.gov)
- If the employer is subject to Federal FMLA, understand how the 12-month period is determined under each law and take steps to best align the period between the laws.
- Under FMLA, the 12-month period can be the standard calendar year, a year that starts on an employee’s date of employment, the date an employee’s first FMLA leave begins or a rolling 12-month period measured backward from the date an employee uses any FMLA leave.
- PFML calculates the 12-month period from the first Sunday of the week an employee first takes PFML leave.
If the 12-month periods for PFML and FMLA do not line up, an employee could qualify for unpaid time under FMLA, after exhausting PFML, if the FMLA’s 12-month period restarts during the PFML period.
- Amend all existing leave policies to document that all applicable leave benefits will align and run concurrently if permissible under covering laws.
- Review current discipline and review policies to enhance documentation of deficiencies, responding actions, and future ramifications. PFML includes anti-retaliation provisions that are heavily skewed to favor the employee. Hold training sessions for managers and supervisors to ensure that they are creating the documentation necessary to support performance-based actions that are unrelated to PFML.
PFML is a Commonwealth-sponsored benefit funded by the employer and employee. The leave time provided helps employees achieve enhanced work/life balance which benefits all parties. Employers need to understand their compliance obligations and plan for any workplace disruptions that could occur upon the absence of employees for an extended period of time.