In part two of this series, MP’s HR services team answers questions about how MA PFML will work specifically regarding childbirth and bonding leaves. Learn how to update employee policies and the employee handbook, as well as strategic HR planning for the huge shifts that this legislation could bring to your workplace. MP’s HR consulting team helps you prepare for Massachusetts PFML with the answers to these hot questions.
- Q: If an employee is pregnant, can she file for medical leave, and then for family leave?
A: Yes, this is correct. A pregnant employee can take leave for her own serious health condition (typically six to eight weeks for recovery from childbirth, depending on what that doctor certifies). She can then take 12 weeks for bonding leave. Note that there’s no waiting period for benefits if bonding leave is taken immediately after medical leave. Employers should be prepared and think about how long their workers might be out when they are taking various types of leave.
- Q: An employee won’t have all the information needed for bonding leave until their child is born. How will they apply for benefits without that information?
A: Employees can still apply for family leave to the child before the child is born. They will just use the expected due date. This happens a lot with short term disability paperwork, as well. Workers need to file the paperwork before that event happens. Use your best estimate of the due date. Then, after the child’s birth, the employee would just need to provide the documentation of the birth to receive benefits. Generally, that’s a birth certificate, or it’s any kind of document that certifies the actual date that the child was born.
- Q: What happens to the current Massachusetts Parental Leave Law in 2021?
A: Nothing, it will still exist. It will run concurrently with PFML. Note that Massachusetts parental leave allows for unpaid, job-protected leave for full-time employees who have been with the company for three or more months. It provides for leave for up to eight weeks after a birth.
If a worker has multiples, such as twins, they will get a total of 16 weeks of MA parental leave. That’s eight weeks for each birth. However, the employee would only be eligible for up to 12 weeks of paid bonding leave under PMFL, regardless of the number of births. This also goes for FMLA leave. Covered employer should note that MA PFML and FMLA will be running concurrently. MP’s HR services team suggests creating a chart showing all the different leaves that could be running. Just to reiterate, Massachusetts parental leave would allow for 16 weeks for multiple births, for twins. A family will be eligible for a least 12 weeks of PFML bonding leave regardless of the number of births.
- Q: Are there are two types of leave available? One for the childbirth or bonding, and one for medical leave?
A: Correct. There’s leave for both serious medical situations and for parental bonding. To clarify, there are still medical leaves that would cover a regular birth. However, these are typically similar to short term disability. Typically, for a regular birth, a worker gets about 6-8 weeks of medical leave. For a c-section, if the doctor says the employee needs a little bit more time for medical leave, they could get about 10 weeks.
If an employee is going to be having a baby in 2021, they’re going to apply for medical leave first. When HR professionals say childbirth, they’re really referring to the recovery from childbirth (for which they’ll need medical leave). However, note that oftentimes a worker may go on leave prior to childbirth for complications, bed rest, or whatever else would require medical leave. Then, that medical leave would continue through childbirth and on to the recovery from childbirth.
An example: a worker could be out for two weeks of bed rest. Then, they have the baby and are out for eight weeks for regular childbirth. Then, they take time for bonding leave. They can take another 12 weeks of bonding leave. That’s up to 22 weeks. If the worker suffers from postpartum depression or some other medical complication (perhaps even related to the childbirth), they could be eligible for up to another four weeks. This is because in a benefit year, an employee could be eligible for up to twenty-six weeks of leave. Employers could be missing workers for a long time, especially for pregnancy. If it’s a complicated pregnancy and a complicated delivery, they could be out for quite some time.
- Q: Does Massachusetts parental leave cap out at 12 weeks, or eight weeks?
A: MA parental leave caps out at eight weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave.
- Q: What’s the minimum amount of leave a woman could be given for having a baby? Is it 18 weeks: six weeks of medical leave plus 12 weeks of family bonding leave?
A: It’s going to depend on each situation, especially when it comes to pregnancy. It will be very hard to know if a worker should go on leave months before a birth. If they have a complicated delivery, they could be out longer. This could happen even if it’s scheduled to be a natural childbirth. There could be health issues that the mother encounters that come up during delivery. These could extend their medical leave. Until we know the circumstances, we really can’t plan how long this individual is going to be out.
- Q: If an employee has a baby on July 1st, 2020 and took the entire 12 weeks of FMLA, could they now apply for mass bonding?
A: Yes. This is a situation where someone actually could take kind of leave twice. However, going forward, MA parental leave and FMLA would be running concurrently with MA PFML. So, this is a one-time fluke where someone could be taking a whole lot of time for the same event.
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