Employers might not be ready for all the intricacies of MA PFML. MP’s HR services shares a short guide to help workplaces prepare for this complicated legislation. This article will cover the basics of Massachusetts PFML. Topics will include how and who applies for benefits, interactions with other leaves and employee policies, exclusions, and private plan exemptions.
MA PFML Benefits
As of January 1, 2021, workers will be eligible to take leave under Massachusetts PFML. It will provide paid leave for these circumstances:
- Bonding leave for the birth or adoption of a child
- Medical leave due to their own serious health condition
- Family leave to care for a family member with a serious health condition that relates to military service
Starting July 1, 2021, workers can also take MA PFML to care for a family member with a serious health condition.
Applying for MA PFML Benefits
Employees (rather than employers) are the ones who are responsible for applying for PFML benefits. They should be prepared to complete the following steps:
- Upload documents to prove their identity
- Select leave details, including the type of leave, dates needed, and whether it’s a full leave or intermittent leave.
- Upload documents to verify the need for their leave request. Different kinds of leave will require different kinds of documents. For instance, applicants for medical leave will need a certificate from their doctor confirming their serious health condition. Applicants for bonding leave may need a birth certificate or adoption paperwork.
- Enter employment information. This will include the EIN number for the employer and proof that they’ve informed the employer of their intention to apply for MA PFML leave. Workers who are requesting leave from multiple employers will need to fill out a separate application for each one.
- Calculate any reductions in benefits. These may come from any kind of leave already taken in the last 12 months, any employee benefits received, or any other source of income that the applicant might have.
- Choose the preferred form of payment method: either a direct deposit or a check that is mailed each pay period.
How MA PFML Will Interact with Other Leaves
Employers should remember that sick leave, vacation leave, personal leave, compensatory leave, and FMLA will all affect how workers take PFML and how they’re paid during their leave.
Accrued paid leave
Workers won’t receive any benefits (i.e., payment) for any period during which they choose to use employer-provided “accrued paid leave.” (They will still receive job protection, though.) This includes, but is not limited to, sick leave, annual leave, vacation leave, personal leave, compensatory leave, or PTO. Employers must inform the employees that any accrued paid leave will run concurrent with MA PFML. MP’s HR consulting team recommends that they do so by updating their paid leave policies in the employee handbook with this information.
Disability and paid family or medical leave policies
Note that MA PFML is not affected by an employer’s disability or paid family or medical leave policies. If employers offer short-term or long-term disability or parental leave policies, these won’t reduce the amount of MA PFML that can be taken.
Reduction of MA PFML benefits
A worker’s weekly benefit amount will be reduced by the amount of wages, wage replacement, or leave that a covered individual receives from:
- Unemployment or worker’s compensation
- Other state or federal disability benefits law
- Permanent disability policy of employer
Unless the aggregate amount would exceed their average weekly wage, a worker’s benefit amount will not be reduced by the wage replacement received from:
- Employer’s temporary disability policy or program
- Employer’s paid family or medical leave policy
- Any wages received from another employer or through self-employment.
Exclusions from MA PFML
Employers should note that an exemption is different from an exclusion. An exemption allows employers to provide paid family and medical leave through their own private plans. It does not exclude them from this legislation at all, just from using the state plan. To be completely excluded, an employer must meet the criteria listed in the law. These criteria are generally the same as the ones required to be excluded from participating in unemployment programs. Generally, it’s very unlikely that an employer operating in MA will meet the exclusion criteria.
MA PFML Private Plan Exemptions
An employer can qualify for exemptions from the state plan if their private plan provides the same benefits and value or greater than the PFML law. Their plan must also provide the same protections. To do so, they can apply via their MassTaxConnect Account. Some employers might get partial exemptions from just the MA PFML’s Family Leave program or their Medical Leave Program. Employers will not be able to get exemptions for only part of their workforce. They cannot offer a private plan to just their highly paid or exempt employees, for example.
Similar to other insurance plans, the PFML private plan will need to be renewed. Employers can check the status of their current exemption by signing into their MassTaxConnect account. Employers must renew their exemption on or before the expiration date by submitting a renewal application in MassTaxConnect
Employers who do not want to renew their private plans should be prepared to follow the steps below. These tasks may take a significant amount of time, so HR and payroll experts suggest that employers leave plenty of time to do them:
- Report prior wages and qualified earnings to the DFML for the four quarters immediately preceding the termination date of the exemption
- Comply with the DFML’s specified obligations
- Coordinate collecting and remitting contributions to pay into the state MA PFML fund
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