FAQs on Employee Leaves

Human Resources has compiled these FAQs to assist employees and managers in understanding the policies and processes in place starting in 2021 as a result of the Massachusetts Paid Family Medical Leave Act (PFMLA).

For full details, see our overview of employee sick and family leaves, and review the leave policies in the MIT Employment Manual.

Managers and DLC administrators can find additional FAQs here.

About the PFMLA and MIT Policies

What types of leaves are available under the Massachusetts Paid Family Medical Leave Act (PFMLA)?

Under the law, employees are entitled to paid leave—at a rate set by a state formula—for serious health conditions and certain family reasons:

Medical leave
  • Up to 20 weeks of paid leave per year for an employee’s own serious health condition
Family leave
  • Up to 12 weeks of paid leave per year for the birth, adoption, or foster care placement of a child
  • Up to 12 weeks of paid leave per year to care for a family member with a serious health condition
  • Paid leaves relating to a family member in the armed services (either up to 12 weeks or 26 weeks, depending on the reason for the leave)

An employee may take up to 26 weeks of paid leave (total) per year. The amount of pay is set by a state formula, up to a weekly maximum which is currently $850 (gross pay).

See Overview of Employee Leaves for details on these leaves for benefits-eligible staff and non-benefits eligible staff.

How does PFMLA intersect with the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)?

FMLA is a federal law and provides for unpaid family and medical leaves with job protection. The PFMLA is a Massachusetts state law, and provides for paid family and medical leaves with job protection. The FMLA and the PFMLA generally run concurrently. At MIT, an employee with a serious illness could be on FMLA, PFMLA, and MIT Sick Time or Serious Illness Reduced Pay, all running concurrently.

What are the significant changes in the new MIT sick and family leave policies?

  • An employee may take up to 26 weeks of total sick and family leave within a 52-week period, called a Benefit Year. (This is defined in the policy.)
  • Employees hired on or after January 1, 2021 will receive 20 days of sick time upon hire.
  • All non-faculty employees will accrue sick time. Sick time will accrue on the employee’s monthly anniversary. Accrual is prorated for part-time employees.
  • Salaried employees were provided with a balance of sick time on January 1, 2021. Sick time balances can be found in the Atlas tool Sick Time Reporting (Salaried Staff).
  • Salaried staff must report all non-serious illness sick time through the Atlas tool Sick Time Reporting (Salaried Staff). All serious illness sick time must be reported to our leave administration vendor Workpartners.
  • For hourly benefits-eligible employees, MIT has replaced Extended Sick Leave at 75% pay with Serious Illness Reduced Pay (SIRP) at 80% pay.
  • Salaried benefits-eligible employees alslo have the option to take Serious Illness Reduced Pay (SIRP) at 80% pay.
  • FMLA is now counted forward from the beginning of the leave.
  • New parents may take up to 12 weeks of Bonding Leave under the PFMLA.

Are all the leaves considered paid leaves?

PFMLA leaves are paid leaves. Many of the leaves will run concurrently with leaves provided by MIT policy. While on a PFMLA leave, employees will continue to be paid either through automatic payroll deposit or in the same way they were paid prior to the leave. Some PFMLA leaves are paid at the state rate, which is up to but not higher than $850 weekly; use the state's calculator to determine approximate payment. Note that paid leaves, whether paid under MIT policy or under the PFMLA calculation, are subject to taxes and regular payroll deductions.

Under what circumstances would an employee be paid the state rate and not their regular salary?

Employees on leaves covered by the PFMLA that are not covered by MIT’s sick or other paid leave policies are eligible for pay at the state rate as outlined by the PFMLA. Those leaves generally include Bonding Leave, Leave to Care for an Ill Service Member, and Exigency Leave. Employees are also eligible for pay at the state rate to care for an ill family member. In rare circumstances, such as when an employee went on a part-time schedule right before a leave, the PFMLA state rate may be more than the MIT policy payment, and in that case, the state rate will be paid.

How is “family” defined by the PFMLA?

For the purposes of family leave used to care for a family member, family members include your spouse, domestic partner, child, parent, grandchild, grandparent or sibling; the parent of your spouse or domestic partner; and guardians who legally acted as a parent (“in loco parentis”) when you were a minor.

What is considered a serious illness under the PFMLA?

The PFMLA defines a serious health condition as a physical or mental condition that prevents one from doing their job either because they are unable to, or because they need time to get treated or recover from treatment. A Serious Health Condition is an illness, injury, impairment, or physical or mental condition that involves (a) inpatient care in a hospital, hospice, or residential medical facility; or (b) continuing treatment by a Healthcare Provider.

The term Serious Health Condition includes any period of incapacity due to pregnancy or for prenatal care, and for childbirth and recovery from childbirth ("maternity leave").

What kind of medical documentation is required for a leave?

See medical documentation details. Required documentation must be submitted within 15 days from the date our leave administration vendor Workpartners sends the paperwork to the employee.

I’m having a hard time getting my doctor to respond to my request for documentation, and I’m afraid I’ll be placed on leave without pay. What can I do?

Please contact our leave administration vendor Workpartners for assistance.

Does the $850 state cap include taxes and other regular check deductions (401k, etc.)?

Yes. The $850 is a gross amount, and taxes and other regular deductions are made. Deductions that are dependent on the amount of earnings (Iike 401(k) contributions) will be reduced when pay is reduced, while deductions that are flat amounts (like health care coverage) will remain the same.

I understand that some of the PFMLA leaves may require a 7 calendar day unpaid waiting period before the PFMLA benefit is paid. Is MIT requiring a waiting period?

No. While the 7 calendar day waiting period is part of the state provisions, MIT is not requiring a waiting period under its private benefit policies.

When applying for leaves under the PFMLA, when does the benefit year begin?

Under PFMLA, calculation of the leave benefit year begins on the Sunday prior to the first day of leave. For leaves under MIT’s private leave policies – MIT’s sick leave, SIRP, and Paid Parental Leave -- as well as the federal FMLA, the benefit year begins on the first day of the leave.

Parental Leaves

The PFMLA adds Bonding Leave to MIT's existing Maternity and Paid Parental leave options.

What is Bonding Leave?

Bonding Leave is provided for parents to spend bonding time with a new child. Under the PFMLA, Bonding Leave can be used to

  • Bond with a child during the first 12 months after the child’s birth
  • Bond with a child during the first 12 months after adoption or foster care placement
  • Bonding leave is paid leave at the state rate, except for any time taken as MIT Paid Parental Leave.

What is the difference between Maternity and Bonding Leave?

Maternity Leave is a kind of sick leave, and is paid to a birth parent for the period of childbirth and recovery from childbirth. MIT assumes a period of eight weeks for maternity leave; a longer time may be paid if justified by medical documentation. Maternity Leave is paid under MIT’s sick policies – either Sick Time, Serious Illness Reduced Pay, Transitional Salaried Serious Illness Pay (for salaried staff employed on December 31, 2020), or at the state rate for benefits-eligible employees.

Bonding Leave is available for any parent – both parent or non-birth parent – to bond with a new child after the birth, adoption or foster care placement of the child. Bonding Leave must be taken within one year of the birth, adoption, or placement of the child.

How does MIT Paid Parental Leave work with PFMLA?

MIT Paid Parental Leave for benefits-eligible employees is 20 days of leave (prorated for part-time employees). MIT Paid Parental Leave is available immediately upon employment, and it can be used up to a year from the birth, adoption, or foster placement of a child. The birth of the child and use of the leave must be during employment at MIT.

MIT’s Paid Parental Leave runs concurrently with PFMLA Bonding Leave. Once an eligible employee exhausts their MIT Paid Parental Leave, they can transition to Bonding Leave and receive pay at the state formula rate. The total of the two leaves can’t exceed 12 weeks.

Does Bonding Leave replace MIT’s Paid Parental Leave?

MIT’s 20 days of Paid Parental Leave remains at the same level of pay it is at now. MIT Paid Parental Leave can be taken within 12 months of the child’s birth, adoption, or placement. It counts toward the 12 weeks of Bonding Leave offered under the PFMLA. MIT Paid Parental Leave is paid at the employee’s regular rate of pay while Bonding Leave is paid at the state rate. So a benefits-eligible parent who takes all 12 weeks would receive 4 weeks at full pay under the MIT Paid Parental Leave, followed by 8 weeks of pay at the state rate.

Can an employee use a portion of sick time at the start of maternity leave and then switch to SIRP?

Yes. Maternity leave is a form of sick/medical leave for birth mothers. Like other sick leaves, it may be paid out of accrued sick time (100% pay) and then at SIRP (80% pay), as the employee chooses. Once the employee chooses SIRP, they cannot change to sick time for the balance of that maternity leave.

Can an employee use Bonding Leave in single-day or partial-day increments? Can an employee decide on Bonding Leave dates on a flexible basis each week?

Bonding Leave may be taken in full day increments only. Employees must be granted approval in advance in order to take Bonding Leave on an intermittent or flexible basis each week. For department operations, the request should be made at least two weeks in advance of the leave.

If both parents work at MIT, are they both eligible for Bonding Leave?

Yes. If both parents are employees of MIT at the time of the birth, they are each entitled to 12 weeks of Bonding Leave, which may include twenty days of MIT Paid Parental Leave.

If an employee took MIT Paid Parental Leave in 2020, can they take Bonding Leave in 2021? Are they eligible for MIT Paid Parental Leave again?

An employee who took Maternity and/or MIT Paid Parental leave in 2020 is eligible for Bonding Leave in 2021 for up to 12 weeks, paid at the state rate, as long as it is taken within 12 months of the birth, adoption, or placement of the child. The employee is not eligible for MIT Paid Parental Leave for the same child a second time.

Can an employee use MIT Paid Parental Leave and Bonding Leave while working remotely from outside the state and/or country?

Generally, benefits-eligible staff can use Parental Leave or Bonding Leave if they are working in another state or country. However, if they are also eligible for paid parental leave under the laws of the other state or country, then the employee will receive the greater of the two benefits but not both. Non-benefits eligible staff who regularly work from another state are not entitled to leave under PFMLA.

Sick bank balances and personal time

What increments are used for recording sick time in the Atlas sick time reporting tool?

Employees can enter non-serious illness sick time in 15-minute increments.

Reminder: The tool is used to report non-serious illness sick time. All serious illness sick time must be reported to our leave administration vendor Workpartners.

Examples

I am an administrative staff salaried employee. If I only have 20 days of sick leave and I am having a baby, what are my leave options for my maternity leave?

If you are a salaried employee hired on or before December 31, 2020, you are eligible for Transitional Salaried Serious Illness Pay, which is 100% of pay; this type of leave may be used after you use your sick leave down to 20 days. If you have more than 20 days of Sick Time and wish to preserve all or most of it, you may choose to use Serious Illness Reduced Pay leave at 80% pay. Our leave administration vendor Workpartnerswill provide you with an election form to complete when you request your maternity leave.

I have a serious health condition and my physician informed me that I need two days of sick leave per month to manage my condition. What steps do I need to take?

You are eligible for intermittent leave under MIT’s policies as well as under the FMLA and the PFMLA. If you have an accrued sick time balance, you are eligible to use that time. If you have no remaining sick time, or prefer not to use your sick time, you are eligible for Serious Illness Reduced Pay (SIRP). You should contact our leave administration vendor Workpartners to begin the leave process and confirm what laws and policies apply to your situation.

I have a child who needs surgery and I will have to be with them for a six-week period. What am I entitled to under PFMLA?

You are able to use up to five days of your sick leave that you can use at the beginning of your anniversary year to care for an ill family member. After those five days, you are eligible for PFMLA leave to care for a family member with a serious health condition, and will be paid at the state PFMLA rate.

I am a salaried employee and I work 40% time as a research scientist on campus. Am I eligible for sick leave under PFMLA?

Yes. At 40% effort you are not eligible for MIT benefits, but you are eligible to use up to 40 hours per year of sick time accrued under the MA Earned Sick time law. Sick leave is accrued at 1 hour of sick leave per every 30 hours worked under this law. You may also be eligible for PFMLA leave, which is paid at the state formula rate of up to $850 per week, for your own serious health condition or for family leaves. 

I know that MIT policies permit me to use five days of my sick leave to care for an ill family member. May I combine that with the PFMLA Sick Family and have 13 weeks to care for an ill family member?

No. Sick Family leaves can be used for a total of up to 12 weeks, paid at the state rate under the PFMLA. Employees can choose whether they wish to use (if available) their five days of sick family as part of the leave. Any use of Sick Family leave runs concurrently with the PFMLA.

Leave Administration

MIT employees who are on a medical or family leave, or who are taking a new leave, should contact Workpartners, our leave administration vendor.

Why is MIT using a vendor to manage sick leave?

With the complexity of the new PFMLA and MIT’s sick policies, MIT wants to ensure that employees understand and are notified of their rights in a timely manner.

How will Workpartners know my sick leave balance?

There is a daily feed between MIT and Workpartners with current sick leave balances.

How do I contact Workpartners?

Workpartners has a seven-days-per-week, 24-hours-per-day phone line for employees to use to request a leave.


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