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The New Paid Family Medical Leave Law in Massachusetts

/// Posted by Paula Drozdal Connors

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In 2018, Massachusetts signed into law a statute that provides paid family and medical leave (PFML) benefits to workers. Massachusetts becomes only the sixth state, along with the District of Columbia, to require paid leave. The state has yet to issue final regulations, but they did provide updated draft regulations at the end of March. Although benefits will not be paid until January 2021, employers have obligations to notify employees of this law now. The withholding and reporting obligations begin on July 1st, 2019.

Employers must notify their workforce about the law including the benefits and protections that apply to them. This is a two-part requirement and includes a workplace poster and a written notice to employees. 

POSTER REQUIREMENT:  Deadline 31. 2019

Employers must post a workplace poster in a highly visible location that outlines the plan benefits and protections. This poster must be provided in English and in any language that five or more employees speak as their primary language. Employers must comply with this rule only if the Department of Family and Medical Leave (DFML) has provided a translated poster in the applicable language. The workplace poster is currently available in the following languages: Arabic, Chinese, French, Haitian Creole, Italian, Khmer, Korean, Lao, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish and Vietnamese.

The state website for important employer documents includes these posters: 

https://www.mass.gov/lists/paid-family-and-medical-leave-downloads-for-massachusetts-employers

WRITTEN NOTICE TO EMPLOYEES: DEADLINE JUNE 30, 2019

Employers who employ Massachusetts residents must also provide written notice to each employee (including 1099-MISC employees) of the availability for the Paid Family and Medical Leave Benefits, contribution rates and other provisions. Employers using the State plan may use the draft employee notification on the website or draft their own notice (content requirements apply). Employers who elect to use a private plan must provide the specific details of their plan in this notice. This document may be distributed electronically.

Employers must also obtain a signature from employees acknowledging receipt. If an employee refuses to sign this acknowledgement, they must sign a written confirmation of refusal to sign.

After the initial deadline, this notice must be provided to all new hires within 30 days or employment—including 1099-MISC contractors.

There is also a language requirement for the notice that is more severe than the poster requirements. This notice must be provided in an employee’s primary language, regardless of the number of employees who speak that language. There is also no requirement for the DFML to first provide a translated notice.

Draft notices are available at:  https://www.mass.gov/lists/paid-family-and-medical-leave-downloads-for-massachusetts-employers

Currently, written notices to employees are available in the following languages: Arabic, Chinese, French, Haitian Creole, Italian, Khmer, Korean, Lao, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish and Vietnamese. Please check the above link for updates.

In addition to notifying employees of the law, employers will have to start reporting workforce wages to the Department of Family and Medical Leave as of July. The specifics as to what constitutes a “covered individual,” types of “qualified leave,” and amount of paid leave available can be found in the employer and employee toolkits, linked below.

Toolkits can be found on the state website at the following links:

Final regulations will be issued by July 1st, but employers should begin planning now for the law’s potential impact. In addition to the notices, employers need to consider:

  • Whether and how much tax will need to be deducted from employees’ pay?
  • How paid leave under the new law will affect existing leave policies and collective bargaining agreements?
  • Whether pursuit of a private plan option makes sense for your workforce?

I highly recommend reviewing the informational toolkits provided by Mass.gov. You can also register on the site for updates from the state.