September 3, 2020

Massachusetts: Paid Family and Medical Leave Updates

The Massachusetts Department of Family and Medical Leave issued final regulations governing its paid family and medical leave (PFML) law on July 24, 2020.

As a reminder, individuals are eligible for up to 12 weeks of paid family leave for the birth, adoption, or foster care placement of a child, or due to a qualifying military exigency; or, up to 20 weeks of paid medical leave for one’s own serious health condition beginning January 1, 2021. Beginning July 1, 2021, individuals are eligible for up to 12 weeks of paid family leave to care for a family member with a serious health condition, not to exceed a combined total of 26 weeks of paid family and medical leave in a benefit year. For summaries of this law, see our prior Benefit Beat articles from JulyMay and April, 2019.

These regulations provide significant guidance. A few of the particularly important points for employers are as follows:

Private plan exemption.  An employer may apply to the Department for a private plan exemption (see our prior Benefit Beat article from May, 2020).  An employer may apply for exemption for medical leave coverage, family leave coverage, or both. If an employer chooses to offer a private plan it must be made available to all of its workforce. It cannot be made available to just a subset of its workforce.

Employees must make application in the 30-60 day window preceding the need for leave or as soon as possible if the leave is not foreseeable.

An employer offering a private plan must have an internal appeals process that would be followed prior to filing an appeal with the Department of Family and Medical Leave. An adverse determination must be accompanied with a notice explaining further rights under both the private plan and the state plan.

If an employer moves from a private plan to the state plan or vice versa, the state plan or private plan must continue to provide paid leave benefits to covered individuals for the entire leave duration for leave filed prior to the effective date of the transfer. Employers that renew a private plan with a new or different insurance carrier must ensure that there are no gaps in coverage for covered individuals.

Treatment for substance use disorder. The final regulations provide that treatment for substance use disorder may be deemed a serious health condition allowing entitlement to paid family leave.

Intermittent leave.  For purposes of calculating the benefit, the final regulations restrict the amount of payable time taken under intermittent leave to 15-minute increments, consistent with employer policies.  However, payment will not be made for requests of less than 8 hours.

Job protected leave.  The final regulations clarify that if an employee uses any other type of leave provided by the employer, including leave under a temporary disability policy, a paid family or medical leave policy, or an extended illness leave bank instead of the state’s paid leave program, the employee will be entitled to job protected leave as of the date of commencing such leave.  Further, leave provided by a program other than the state’s PFML law would run concurrent with the leave period provided under the state’s PFML law.

Substitution of employer-provided paid leave.  The final regulations clarify that a covered individual who is approved for leave benefits by the Department but chooses to use accrued paid leave or leave through an extended illness leave bank program will not receive paid leave benefits from the Department for the period of time for which they received accrued paid time or leave through an extended illness leave program.  Accrued paid leave or leave from an extended illness leave program would run concurrently with any available leave provided under PFML law.

Additional information about this Massachusetts PFL program for employers including contributions and reporting, as well as private plan exemptions, are available from the Department’s dedicated 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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