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Massachusetts Employees Now Eligible For Paid Leave To Care For Family Members

As of July 1, 2021, all provisions of the Massachusetts Paid Family and Medical Leave (“PFML”) law are in effect, and covered individuals may now take up to twelve weeks of paid family leave to care for family members who have serious health conditions.

Unlike the federal Family and Medical Leave Act – which applies only to larger employers and provides unpaid leave – the PFML law covers the vast majority of Massachusetts employers and provides partial salary replacement for eligible individuals. Employers and employees alike have been contributing to the state PFML trust fund through payroll deductions since July 1, 2019, and eligible employees have been able to take leave for other covered reasons since January 1, 2021.

Summary Of PFML Law

Since January 1, 2021, employers throughout Massachusetts have been required to provide up to 26 weeks of paid, job-protected leave annually to their employees (and, in some cases, to independent contractors) for the following family-related or medical reasons:

• Up to twelve weeks of paid family leave may be taken to bond with a newborn child, bond with a child after adoption or foster care placement, or manage family affairs when a family member is on active duty in the armed forces.

• Up to 20 weeks of paid medical leave may be taken to manage an individual’s own serious health condition, including chronic conditions, requiring treatment by a health care provider.

• Up to 26 weeks of paid family leave may be taken to care for a family member who is a covered service member undergoing medical treatment, or otherwise to address consequences of a serious health condition relating to the family member’s military service.

The weekly benefit amount for an employee on PFML is determined through a formula based on both the individual’s average weekly wage and the average weekly wage throughout Massachusetts. The initial maximum weekly benefit amount for 2021 is capped at $850, with this number to be adjusted annually.

Benefit payments are made through the special state PFML trust fund, which is funded through mandated payroll tax contributions by employers and employees. Alternatively, an employer may obtain an exemption from participation in the trust fund by adopting an approved private plan providing equally (or more) favorable PFML benefits to its employees.

For additional information on the PFML law, please see our prior e-alerts on the topic here, here, and here.

What’s New

In addition to the covered reasons listed above, as of July 1, 2021, eligible employees may take up to twelve weeks of medical leave to care for a family member with a serious health condition, defined as “any illness, injury, impairment, or physical or mental condition that involves inpatient care or continuing treatment by a health care provider.”

The PFML law defines “family member” broadly to include a:

• Spouse or domestic partner;

• Child, stepchild, adopted or foster child, a child to whom the employee is like a parent, or a person to whom the employee stood in the place of a parent when the person was a minor;

• Parent, parent of a spouse or domestic partner;

• Grandchild;

• Grandparent; or

• Sibling.

This new entitlement does not increase the overall maximum number of weeks (26) of PFML that eligible individuals will be permitted to use in a benefit year.

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Though the PFML law’s contribution requirements have been in place since 2019, many Massachusetts employers are now navigating the PFML benefit process for the first time. Employers with questions about their obligations under the PFML law – including their responsibilities as employers and the rights of covered individuals – are encouraged to contact one of our experienced employment law attorneys.