State Family Leave Law Updates: Massachusetts and District of Columbia

The administrative agency governing the Massachusetts paid family leave program has announced extensions of certain provisions, and the District of Columbia’s enforcement agency released guidance in implementing its paid family leave law.

  • Certain Massachusetts PFML Provisions Extended

As follow-up to last month’s article discussing the Massachusetts Paid Family and Medical Leave law, the Department of Family and Medical Leave announced extensions of certain deadlines.  Of particular note:

  • Extension of providing the employee notification.  Under the law, employers are required to notify their workforce about the paid family and medical leave program.  The notice was to be provided by May 31, 2019.  Employers now have until June 30, 2019 to provide information to their employees about the benefit.
  • Extension for requesting private plan exemption.  An employer who already provides comparable paid leave benefits to its employees has the option to apply for an exemption from the payroll tax obligation.  Such exemption must be approved in the quarter prior to the quarter in which it becomes effective.  The deadline for filing the exemption that would take effect for 1st quarter contributions has been extended from June 30, 2019 to September 20, 2019.  The full contribution amount from July 1, 2019 would apply if the exemption is denied.
  • District of Columbia’s Paid Family Leave Law

Two years ago, the District of Columbia enacted a paid family leave law, the provisions of which become effective shortly.  This law requires all private sector employers to provide paid leave to its employees. To fund the benefit, the District will commence collecting a 0.62% payroll tax from employers beginning July 1, 2019.  Paid leave benefits begin July 1, 2020.

For purposes of this law:

  • A covered employer is defined as any private sector entity, regardless of size, who employs or exercises control over the wages, hours, or working conditions of an employee, and is required to pay unemployment insurance on behalf of its employees. A covered employer also includes a self-employed individual who has opted into the paid-leave program.  The law does not apply to the federal government, the District itself, or an employer exempt from certain taxation by the District.
  • A covered employee is defined as any worker of a covered employer who:
  • Spends more than 50% of his/her work time in the District; or
  • Spends a substantial amount of work time within the District for the covered employer, but less than 50% for that covered employer in another jurisdiction.

Types and Amount of Leave.  Beginning July 1, 2020, a covered employee is entitled to take a cumulative amount of 16 weeks in any 12-month period depending on the needs, as follows:

  • Up to 8 weeks of parental leave for baby bonding;
  • Up to 2 weeks of medical leave for one’s own serious health condition; and
  • Up to 6 weeks of family leave for a family member’s serious health condition.  For this purpose, a family member includes a child (including a biological, adopted, or foster son or daughter; a stepchild; or a legal ward or person to whom the employee stands in loco parentis), a parent (including in-laws, foster parents, guardians, and persons in loco parentis), a spouse or domestic partner, a grandparent, or a sibling.

Contributions.  Beginning July 1, 2019, all covered employers will be required to contribute an amount equal to 0.62% of the total wages of each of its covered employees to the Universal Paid Leave Implementation Fund. The paid family leave (PFL) tax is 100% employer-funded, and cannot be deducted from a worker's paycheck.

Recording wages and reporting requirements.  Employers must begin recording wages for workers on April 1, 2019.   Employers are required to submit quarterly wage reports in a similar fashion to the UC30 wage report that is submitted for unemployment insurance taxes. The first collection of the PFL quarterly tax covers wages paid to workers from April 1 through June 30, 2019.  Submission of these wage reports is accomplished through the Employer Self-Service portal.

Coordination with existing PTO plan.  The PFL law does not provide any exemptions for employers with their own paid leave benefits. All employers are required to contribute to the PFL program.

Notice Obligations

  • Employee notice obligation.  An employee must provide written notice to the employer at least 10 days, or as early as possible, in advance of the paid leave.  If the leave is unforeseeable, notice must be provided at the beginning of the work shift for which leave is being used, or within 48 hours in the event of an emergency.
  • Employer Notice Obligations

Workplace posting.  A covered employer is required to post a PFL program notice in a conspicuous place or places where employee notices are customarily posted, in each worksite location.  The District’s Office of Paid Family Leave (OPFL) provides a model workplace posting (in English and Spanish) on its website that can be used for this purpose.

On-going notice obligations.  In addition to the workplace posting, a covered employer must also provide notice of the PFL benefit to employees at the following times:

  1. Within 30 days of hire;
  2. Annually to all employees; and
  3. At the time employee notifies the covered employer of the need for leave.

Employee protections.   An employee returning from leave is entitled to the same rights as those under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act, or the District’s Federal and Medical Leave law.  An employee working for a small employer (less than 20 employees) would not be entitled to job protection if he/she decides to take paid leave. During leave, health insurance must be continued under the same conditions as prior to leave.

Record retention Employers are required to maintain relevant payroll records for each covered employee for at least three years. Payroll records must include names, social security numbers or individual taxpayer identification numbers, pay period dates, wages for each pay period, and dates of employment.

Enforcement and Internet Resources.  The District’s Department of Employment Services administers and enforces the provisions of the paid family leave program.  Additional information for both employees and employers relating to the PFL law including model employee notices, FAQs, and similar resources, is available on the District’s Office of Paid Family Leave (OPFL) website.   

The information contained in this article is provided as general guidance and may be affected by changes in law or regulation. This article is not intended to replace or substitute for accounting or other professional advice. Please consult a CBIZ professional. This information is provided as-is with no warranties of any kind. CBIZ shall not be liable for any damages whatsoever in connection with its use and assumes no obligation to inform the reader of any changes in laws or other factors that could affect the information contained herein.

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