Paid Family and Medical Leave (PFML) will be one of the biggest topics in the latest HR updates of 2020—for Massachusetts employers and employers in other states. Though workers and employers in Massachusetts have been making MA PFML contributions since Fall 2019, workers will be able to take leave starting January 1, 2021. Outside of Massachusetts, there are currently nine states with paid family and/or medical leave laws and 25 additional states with proposed legislation. This won’t be a passing trend—it’s likely to make its way through most of the country in one form or another. Here are some commonly asked questions about MA PFML regulations, as answered by MP’s HR services experts.
Medical leave on MA PFML
Q: If someone has diabetes and they come in late frequently, can they apply for the funds?
A: Yes, this person could apply for MA PFML medical leave for their own serious health condition. The DFML will determine if the employee is eligible for leave.
Bonding and family leave on MA PFML
Q: If an employee is pregnant, can she file for medical leave, then for family leave?
A: Yes, this is correct. A pregnant employee may take leave for her own serious health condition (typically 6-8 weeks for recovery from childbirth), and then she can take an additional 12 weeks for bonding leave.
Q: Why can you take MA PFML to take care of a sibling, but you can’t take FMLA to take care of a sibling?
A: Siblings are not covered family members under the Federal FMLA, but they are considered family members under the PFML.
Q: If the employee is on unpaid leave, but being paid MA PFML, how will their benefit premiums be deducted?
A: Employers are required to provide for and contribute to the employee’s health insurance benefits for the duration of the leave. The employee is required to pay their portion of the health insurance benefits in accordance with the employer’s uniformly applied policies or practices.
Employer payment and contributions for MA PFML
Q: Recently, was there guidance to increase the MA PFML tax in Massachusetts?
A: No. The DFML recently released guidance that the contribution rate of .75% would not increase in 2021.
Q: Will employee and company rates increase annually if there are a lot of leaves in the company?
A: Rates will not increase for individual employers based on utilization. The DFML will determine if increases are needed on an annual basis to properly fund the plan. This increase would be uniform for all employers participating in the state plan.
Q: Before an employee takes bonding leave, they won’t have all the information until the child is born. How does that work with MA PFML?
A: An employee can apply for family leave to bond with a child before the child is born using their expected due date. After the child’s birth, the employee will need to provide the DFML with documentation in order to receive benefits. Remember that there is a seven-day waiting period before benefits are paid, unless bonding leave is taking immediately after medical leave.
Q: For multi-state employers, is it permissible to have a single parental leave policy that applies to all states (say, if we want to offer 12 weeks paid at 100% for parental leave). Our intention is to supplement whatever employees are eligible for under short-term disability and/or state leave plans to get them to 100% of their usual pay? Would we need a separate policy for every jurisdiction?
A: It is permissible for multi-state employers to have single parental leave employee policies, so long as it is as generous as all state-mandated regulations that are applicable to your entire workforce. They must still comply with all aspects of the MA PFML.
Q: If an employee gives birth in late 2020 and their MA PFML leave rolls into 2021, how will that work?
A: An employee will be eligible for the full 12 weeks of MA PFML to bond with a new child beginning on January 1st, 2021 even if they began taking leave under your parental leave policy in 2020.
Q: If we did not collect employee contributions, what is the best way to correct that error?
A: If you did not collect employee contributions, you cannot do so retroactively. Your business is responsible for paying those contributions to the DFML. There could be penalties for failing to comply with the law. However, it is best to contact the DFML immediately so you can take steps to be in compliance.
MA PFML and other benefits
Q: If an employee took FMLA in the past twelve months, how does that interact with MA PFML?
A: An employee who took FMLA in 2020 is eligible to take leave again for the same reason in 2021 under the PFML.
Q: When an employee applies for MA PFML and short-term disability, will the short-term disability company coordinate with the MA PMFL leave? Or will the MA PMFLA leave come first, then short-term disability?
A: MA PFML benefits will be paid first, then the short-term disability benefits will make up the difference. We’re unsure if the short-term disability provider will coordinate with the DFML directly, or if the employer will need to be involved.
Q: Will the Massachusetts Parental Leave Law still be in effect when PFML begins on January 1st, 2021?
A: Yes, the MA Parental Leave law will still exist and run concurrently with MA PFML.
Q: Our company offers 8 weeks of paid maternity leave. how will this work with MA PFML?
A: If an employee takes leave in 2021, they will take your internal parental leave concurrently with MA PFML. Any benefits received by your parental leave plan will offset the benefits received by the MA PFML.
Q: Can the employee use accrued PTO to supplement the PFML benefit?
A: No, an employee cannot use accrued PTO to supplement their MA PFML benefit. Employees will not receive benefits for any period in which they choose to use any employer-provided accrued paid leave.
Administrative and procedural questions about MA PFML
Q: Our company got an email request from the Department of Family and Medical Leave email@example.com. The email requests some information that doesn’t seem like it should be shared over email.
A: Yes, this email is from the Department of Family and Medical Leave. If you have any concerns about the information they are asking for, you should call the DFML at (833) 344-7365.
Q: Can I include the MA PFML Notice in my employee handbook and just use their handbook acknowledgement form as proof that I gave it out?
A: Yes, you can include the notice in your handbook, as well as provide the notice electronically to employees.
Q: What % of the company workforce can be out at the same time?
A: The regulations do not have any guidance or requirements regarding the percentage of your workforce that can be out on MA PFML at the same time.
Q: What about religious organizations who are excluded from this law (just as they are excluded from unemployment). Do they need to list their contact information as well?
A: Although churches and certain religious organizations are excluded from MA PFML, if the DFML requests information from your organization, you should provide it.
Q: If someone is out for 90 days, when they return does their employer need to have their exact role and amount of hours available?
A: Employees who are out on MA PFML are entitled to job protection during the duration of their leave. This means that they should be returned to the same position, with the same hours and pay that they had before their leave.
Q: We’re a New Hampshire-based company with one employee who works remotely full time in Massachusetts. My understanding is that this benefit applies to all employees that live in Massachusetts and work at an NH workplace. It also seems like MA PFML leave is not available to these employees if they’re working in New Hampshire, but live in Massachusetts. When our company hires someone new who is living in Massachusetts, would MA PFML only be available to that person if they work fully remotely in Massachusetts?
A: This is correct. MA PFML only applies to your employees who work in Massachusetts. You don’t need to provide the notice form to employees who work in New Hampshire.
Q: Our company has multiple locations, one of which is in Massachusetts. For MA PFML purposes, should we use the headcount for just the Massachusetts location, or for all employees under the entire company?
A: Your company will only need to count employees who perform work in Massachusetts.
Q: Where can I get the poster and acknowledgement letter?
A: On the Mass.gov website here.
Q: Will a short-term disability plan pay out after an employee takes MA PFML leave?
A: Unless the aggregate amount would exceed their average weekly wage, the benefit amount will not be reduced by the wage replacement received from a group temporary disability plan.
Timing and MA PFML
Q: Our company is an exempt MA PFML employer and we have an employee who will be taking leave from November to February. Are we obligated to give her the longer benefits because she starts her leave before the start date of the program?
A: Keep in mind that being “exempt” only means that you are exempt from paying employer contributions to the MA PFML. Exempt employers, as well as those using a private plan, still must comply with all aspects of the law. Regarding the employee taking leave in November, the length of the leave will depend on the type of leave requested and any other leave laws. FMLA, parental leave, and other state or federal leaves will run concurrently with PFML. The employee will be eligible for the full amount of leave under the PFML as of January 1, 2021, regardless of the amount of time taken for the same qualifying reason in 2020.
Q: Will anyone that had a baby in 2020 be eligible for 12 weeks paid leave in 2021?
A: This is correct. Employees who took leave in 2020 for bonding with a child will be eligible to take leave again under MA PFML in 2021 as long as the leave period requested includes dates within 12 months of birth.
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