New Massachusetts Employee Leave Laws on the Horizon

by Adam Shafran

On June 28, as part of a comprehensive new employee wage and benefits initiative, Massachusetts adopted an expansive paid family and medical leave law that substantially expands the job protection rights of nearly all workers throughout Massachusetts. While the details are still coming out, the following are the basic points of this new law:

What new employee benefits does the bill establish?
Employees will be entitled to receive 12 weeks of paid family leave to care for a new child, and up to 20 weeks of medical leave if they or a family member has a serious illness or injury.

How will this be funded?
The law would impose a new 0.63% payroll tax that would be split evenly between employers and employees, which would go into a state fund. Employers with less than 25 employees will not have to pay into the fund (i.e. pay the new payroll tax), but employees will still have to contribute their portion.

How much pay will an eligible employee be entitled to receive?
The amount an employee who is eligible for paid leave will be entitled to receive is based on their income, capped at no more than 64% of the state average weekly wage; currently a limit of $850 per week.

When will the law go into effect?
Paid leave benefits will begin in 2021, but the new payroll tax will begin in the summer of 2019.

How does an employee qualify for benefits under the law?
Employees must file a claim with their employer at least 30 days in advance of the requested leave, if foreseeable, including the dates of leave, reason and duration and must provide medical documentation. The first seven days of the leave are not paid, but an employee can use sick or vacation time if they want to be paid.

Do all companies need to offer this paid leave benefit?
Employers that already provide paid leave can opt out of the law, but only if they can demonstrate that they offer benefits equal to or greater than the benefits provided under the law. If the employer provides paid leave, but not to the same extent as required under the new law, employers cannot opt out.


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