MA Paid Family and Medical Leave Starts January 1, 2021
By Christopher Wurster, Esq.
2021 is a great year to be an employee in Massachusetts because on January 1, 2021, employees can begin accessing paid leave under the new MA Paid Family and Medical Leave (PFML) law.
Under PFML, employees can take leave to take care of their own medical condition or to care for a family member with a serious medical condition; to bond with child (whether newborn, newly adopted, or a foster care placement); or for leaves related to military deployment. These benefits become available to Massachusetts employees on January 1, 2021, with the exception of leave to care for a family member, which becomes available on July 1, 2021.
If this sounds familiar, it may remind you of the FMLA, the Family and Medical Leave Act, which is a federal law that allows for similar types of leave. But the FMLA leaves a lot to be desired.
First, leave under the FMLA is unpaid. If you take leave under the FMLA, you could use PTO or sick time while you are out, but once that time is exhausted, the rest of your leave will be unpaid. That left many employees strapped for cash when they were facing difficult medical situations.
Under PFML, your leave is paid. Minimum wage workers will get paid at a rate equal to about 80% of their wages. As your income rises, the percent drops from there, with a cap at about $885 per week.
This is huge. Without PFML, many employees have had to choose between taking unpaid medical leave to care for themselves or a family member – and continuing to work in order to make ends meet, while dealing with the symptoms of their own medical condition or the stress of a family member who needs their care. With PFML, employees no longer have to make this choice because they can access paid leave for these situations.
In addition, PFML differs from the FMLA because it is available to all Massachusetts employees who meet eligibility criteria (such as having earned a certain amount in wages in the previous 12 months). By contrast, the FMLA only applied to employers with 50 or more employees, leaving employees working for smaller businesses out of the picture.
Like the FMLA, if you take leave under PFML, you must be restored to your previous position or an equal position when you return from your leave. And, importantly, the PFML has a strong anti-retaliation provision that creates a presumption of retaliation if an employer takes negative actions against the employee during her leave or within 6 months after.
If you need more information on your rights in the context of the employment relationship, please reach out to the attorneys at Levine-Piro Law for a consultation, 978-637-2048.