What is the Massachusetts Paid Family & Medical Leave Act?

Massachusetts Paid Family and Medical Leave is a new law that provides eligible Massachusetts employees with certain paid medical and family leaves.

On January 1, 2021, MIT made changes to its medical and family leave policies in response to the law. 

For background on the law, see below.

What Does the Law Provide?

Medical leave

  • Up to 20 weeks of paid leave per year for an employee’s own serious health condition, beginning January 1, 2021

Family leave

  • Up to 12 weeks of paid leave per year for the birth, adoption, or foster care placement of a child, beginning January 1, 2021
  • Up to 12 weeks of paid leave per year to care for a family member with a serious health condition, beginning July 1, 2021
  • 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), beginning January 1, 2021

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).

How has MIT Responded to the Law?

Employers may comply with this new law either by:

  • participating in the state’s medical and family leave programs or
  • opting out of the state medical and/or family leave programs as long as the employer has a private plan that provides benefits that are at least as generous as the benefits required by state law

The law allows employers to deduct from an employee’s paycheck a tax to fund the cost of these paid leave programs.

MIT opted out of the state medical and family leave programs and has provided new leave benefits in 2021. MIT does not plan to deduct an employee contribution, so your paycheck will not be affected by this new tax.

More background on the PFMLA

Technical change in calculating leave time

As a result of the new state law, MIT has implemented a technical change in the way the leave period under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is calculated. MIT is required by law to provide notice of this change.

Details

Under the FMLA, an employee may use 12 weeks of unpaid leave within a year for certain family and medical leaves. The FMLA permits different methods to calculate when an employee reaches that 12 week limit. In determining the 12 week limit, MIT has used a “rolling” method to look backwards at prior FMLA leaves during the past year. As of January 1, 2021, MIT will use a forward looking method to determine the 12 weeks of FMLA eligibility.

"Rolling" method for calculating the FMLA period

Under this method, the "rolling" 12-month period is measured backward from the date of an employee’s first use of FMLA leave for a given qualifying event.

Here is an example:

  • Employee requests to begin an FMLA qualifying leave on March 1, 2021. The employee had used prior FMLA leaves.
  • The look-back period for the request goes back to March 1, 2020.
  • Assume that the employee used 4 weeks of FMLA in April 2020, and 4 weeks in May 2020 for a total of 8 weeks over that 12-month period.
  • As of March 1, 2021, the employee is entitled to 4 weeks of FMLA (12-week entitlement minus the 8 weeks already taken).
  • Because the FMLA period is recalculated using the "rolling" method, an additional 4 weeks of FMLA will become available in May 2021, with another 4 weeks becoming available in June 2021.
Forward-looking method for calculating the FMLA period

Under this method, the 12-month period begins on the first day the employee takes FMLA leave. If FMLA leave is taken after that 12-month period ends, their next 12-month period begins on the first day of that leave.

Here is an example. Assume similar facts as in the prior example:

  • Employee took a 4-week FMLA leave in March 2020, and a 4-week FMLA leave in May 2020.
  • The employee requests an FMLA qualifying leave beginning March 1, 2021.
  • If MIT had been using the  12-month forward-looking method for all of these leaves:
    • The 4-week leave in March 2020 would have been granted, with an end date of February 2021.
    • The 4-week leave in May 2020 for the same leave reason would have been granted with an end date of February 2021.
    • For the March 1, 2021 leave, the employee will get a new 12-week FMLA balance with an end date in February 2022.

On this site:

Overview: New Medical and Family Leaves for 2021

Learn more: