Home Employment Law Are You Aware of Changes to Massachusetts Paid Family and Medical Leave?

Are You Aware of Changes to Massachusetts Paid Family and Medical Leave?

muccilegal March 8, 2024

Last year, the Massachusetts government made changes to its Paid Family and Medical Leave (PMFL) program. You should have been advised of these changes by your employer, but if you have not been made aware of changes to PFML or are confused about how you can make use of PFML or even what PFML is all about, read on below.

PFML, FMLA, what’s in a name?

The number of acronyms that the average working person has to be familiar with can be intimidating and confusing. Remembering just what an acronym stands for is not enough. You have to know whether it is relevant to you. PFML is an important state program which is funded by contributions that your employer and you make every payroll period. It allows you to apply to take leave for certain important reasons from your job and get paid while you are not working. If you are seriously sick, or you have to look after a seriously sick family member, or you have just given birth, these are all included in the PFML program and you can benefit from using it. You just have to know more about it, how to apply for PMFL and what you can do if it is refused.

PFML and FMLA: the differences

PFML and FMLA are parallel, but distinctly different programs that allow many, but not all, employees to take some time off work to care for themselves, or someone else, without it compromising their job. PFML is not unique to Massachusetts. A minority of U.S. states has similar paid family and medical leave programs, but many states do not. All U.S. states, however, are covered by the federal government’s Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). This legislation allows many employees the opportunity to take unpaid leave from their job for similar reasons to the PFML, i.e. to care for themselves if seriously sick or a family member if sick without losing their job.

The two programs in Massachusetts work side by side, but most employees use the PFML provisions because they get paid while on leave. If an employee is not entitled to PFML, they may still be entitled to unpaid leave through the FMLA.

In addition to the key difference in being a paid leave program, there are also differences between the PMFL and FMLA over the time allowed for leave and eligibility based on the size of the workplace where you are employed.

How the PFML program works in Massachusetts

Caring for family is one reason for requesting paid leave

PFML can be applied for if you are an eligible employee and any one of the following situations applies to you. Maximum leave times in weeks are stated in parentheses at the end of each category.

  1. You cannot work because of your serious injury, illness or your pregnancy or impending childbirth (20 weeks max.).
  2. You must care for a family member who is seriously sick or suffering from a disabling injury, or who is pregnant (12 weeks max.).
  3. You need to bond with a new born baby, adopted infant/child or foster child placement  (12 weeks).
  4. You need to care for a family member who was injured while serving in the armed forces (26 weeks).
  5. You need to manage family affairs while a family member is on active military service (12 weeks).

You are considered an eligible employee if you have earned a minimum amount over the previous 4 calendar quarters. This amount is established every year by the Department of Unemployment Assistance (DUA). Those who are self-employed can also opt in to the PFML program through MassTaxConnect, so are not excluded.

Paid leave amounts and 2023 changes introduced to the way payments can be topped up

While the PFML program means that you can take time off work and get paid while you are looking after yourself or someone else or your family’s affairs, you will not get paid exactly what you have been earning up to now. The amount of payment is calculated according to a formula that takes into account of the following:

  • your average weekly earnings;
  • the state’s average weekly earnings for the sort of job you do;
  • the category of reason why you have applied for leave;
  • the amount of leave you are applying for.

The maximum weekly PFML in 2024 is $1,149.90, up from $1,129.82 last year.

Many employees find that the leave payment isn’t as much as they would have been earning if they had continued working but until the update last year may not have convinced their employer to top up their PFML leave pay with other accrued benefit entitlements like sick and vacation pay. Employers on a private plan were able to offer to release PTO (paid time off) entitlements at the same time as PFML, but public employers could not. That changed on 1st November 2023 when the PFML law changed so that no employer could prevent an employee from taking PTO benefits when on leave, although employers could not insist that employees did so.

Applying for PFML

Insufficient evidence for need for paid leave may lead to rejection of PFML application

The reasons for leave are varied. You might be able to plan applying for PFML well in advance (up to 60 days in advance), but sometimes, circumstances make an emergency application for leave necessary. Because the final decision to grant leave payments rests with the DFML, you are more likely to get payments made sooner rather than later if you are able to plan for leave in advance, but provision for emergency leave needs is available.

Not all leave payment requests through the PFML program are successful and you may have to appeal an application that has been rejected. This is usually because insufficient evidence of the need for leave from your job is serious enough. If your application is rejected and you face having to appeal, you may find that an employment law attorney can help with legal advice about your application.

For more information, visit our website Mucci Legal or contact us for a free initial legal consultation today.



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