Basics of the Massachusetts Paid Family and Medical Leave Act (“MAPFMLA”)

Author: Diane M. Kildea

In the summer of 2018, “An Act Relative to Minimum Wage, Paid Family Medical Leave and the Sales Tax Holiday” was signed into law creating M.G.L. c. 175M (entitled “Family and Medical Leave”). The newly formed Department of Family and Medical Leave (the “Department”) issued final regulations on June 18, 2019. This new law provides up to 26 weeks of paid family leave and medical leave to all Massachusetts employees within a benefit year funded through a new payroll tax.

Below is a summary of what employers need to know and what actions employers should take to ensure compliance with the law.

What Employers Need to Know

  • The law applies to ALL Massachusetts employees—The statute essentially borrows the definition of an eligible employee from M.G.L. c. 151A, the Massachusetts Unemployment Insurance statute.
    • A worker qualifies as a covered individual and may be eligible for paid family and medical leave if:
      • s/he is paid by a Massachusetts employer; or
      • s/he resides in Massachusetts and is paid for contract services by a Massachusetts entity that is required to report payment for services on IRS Form 1099-MISC for more than 50 percent of its workforce; or
      • s/he is a self-employed individual who resides in Massachusetts and chooses to opt-in
    • Starting October 1, 2019, employers must begin withholding contributions from employee qualifying earnings
      • Employers with 25 or more workers are responsible for a minimum of 60% of the medical leave contribution but are permitted to deduct from employees’ earnings up to 40% of the medical leave contribution and up to 100% of the family leave contribution
      • Employers with less than 25 workers may deduct 100% of the medical leave and family leave from employees’ earnings
      • The Department’s site includes withholding rate sheets for both small and large employers:
  • Applications for private plan exemption due by December 20, 2019
  • By January 31, 2020, employers must remit employee and (if applicable) employer contributions for the October 1 to December 31 quarter through MassTaxConnect
  • Employees may begin taking the paid leave on January 1, 2021 as follows:
    • Family Leave: up to 12 weeks of paid family leave for birth, adoption or foster care placement of a child
    • Family Leave: up to 26 weeks of paid family leave to care for a family member who is a covered service member with a serious health condition.
    • Medical Leave: up to 20 weeks of paid medical leave for own serious health condition
  • Employees may begin taking the following paid leave on July 1, 2021:
    • Family Leave: up to 12 weeks of paid family leave to care for a family member with a serious health condition
  • Employees may not take more than a total of 26 weeks aggregate of paid family and medical leave per benefit year.
  • Paid leave under the statute runs concurrently with leave under the Massachusetts Parental Leave Act and federal Family and Medical Leave Act.
  • The amount of paid leave is calculated as follows: 80% of the employee’s wage that is less than 50% of state average wage plus 50% of the employee’s wage that is greater than 50% of state average.
    • The amount is capped at $850.00 per week.
    • This amount can be reduced by amounts received by the employee from other sources, such as under the Massachusetts Unemployment Insurance statute or under the employer’s permanent disability policy.
    • Employers cannot compel employees to take accrued paid sick/vacation time, but employees can supplement their statutory paid leave with these benefits.
  • Employers must reinstate the employee after leave and cannot retaliate for leave taken. Retaliation is presumed if there are any negative changes (e.g., demotion, pay or benefits reduction, termination) in the employee’s employment status during leave or within 6 months of employee’s return.

What Employers Should Do to Ensure Compliance

  • Determine if a private plan exemption is right for your workforce.
    • Employers may offer employees with private benefit plans that are at least as generous as those provided under MAPFMLA and apply for an annual exemption from paying contributions.
  • Train supervisors and other key employees regarding the new law’s provisions.
  • Review and amend existing leave policies to reflect the law’s requirements.
  • Begin drafting the mandatory written notices to employees and ensure that a mechanism is in place to provide notices to all new employees in compliance with the law.
  • Discuss compliance issues with your payroll provider to ensure that your company will have a mechanism in place to make the required Trust Fund deductions from employee payroll.
  • Because of the presumption of retaliation if an employee experiences any negative change in employment during or within 6 months of taking leave, employers must be very wary of taking action against an employee during this timeframe. It is critical that employer fully and carefully document employee disciplinary and performance issues. Documentation is an employer’s best ally in overcoming this presumption. Employers should consider consulting with counsel before taking any negative action against an employee during this timeframe.

Please do not hesitate to contact us to set up an in-person or phone consultation to review and discuss how to ensure your company is in compliance with the provisions of M.G.L. c. 175M.