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  • Writer's pictureAmanda Hemm

Decoding the MA Paid Family Medical Leave

Everything you need to know about the new Massachusetts PFML

[blog originally published in Jan 2021; updated Jan 2023]

January 1, 2021 is a day to mark on your calendar - and not just because it is no longer 2020. The MA Paid Family & Medical Leave Act is finally here!


When I first wrote about the MA PFML benefits in March 2019 this day seemed SO FAR AWAY! At that point, parental leave wasn’t even on the minds of the families who are going to be among the first to use this benefit, and now it is just days away.


To make sure that all of these great benefits are not the “Best Kept Secret” of 2021, here is some important information for you to know - and to share with all of your other expectant and new parent friends. Keep reading for my two big AHA! moments for new parents thinking about maternity or paternity leave.


Is this different than FMLA?

Very different! The Federal Family & Medical Leave Act (FMLA) has been around since the early 90s and at the time was a step towards providing job projection. In reality, only about half of employees are eligible for FMLA and it doesn’t provide any paid leave.


The Massachusetts Paid Family & Medical Leave Act takes a major leap forward by providing paid leave for employees who are expanding their family, dealing with medical issues, or caring for family members who have medical issues.



FMLA vs PFML

MA Paid Family & Medical Leave (PFML)

Federal Family & Medical Leave Act (FMLA)

Eligibility

Most employers in MA

(There are exceptions, notably some religious institutions & municipalities including public schools)


If you live in MA and work for an out-of-state employer you are not eligible


Current and former employees (up to 26 weeks after termination)

Employers with 50+ employees


12 months of employment & 1250 hours

Maximum benefits in a 12 months period

Paid - weekly payments for a portion of salary ($1,129.82/wk max in 2023)


20 weeks of medical leave 12 weeks of family leave (bonding)


Add’l benefits related to caring for family & service members

Unpaid


12 weeks leave

Definition of Family Member

Spouse, domestic partner, child, parent, grandchild, grandparent, sibling, parent-in-law, guardians who legally acted as a parent when you were a minor

Son/daughter, spouse, parent

Concurrent PTO requirements

You do not have to use your PTO


Benefits may be “topped off” using STD/LTD insurance or employer leave pay but may not be topped off with other PTO (ie sick, vacation)


Runs concurrently with FMLA


7 day waiting period between start of leave and start of benefits

​Employer may require you to use PTO


Runs concurrent with other leave (PTO), employer time off, and STD/LTD

​Intermittent Use

​Yes for medical leave

Maybe for birth/adoption/foster with approval

​Yes for medical leave

No for birth/adoption/foster



Key Takeaways


Greater eligibility: If you have just started a new job, or recently left a job you may still be eligible for paid leave under PFML.


Definition of family: Families are created in a variety of ways and the MA PFML recognizes that with an expanded definition of family. Way to go, MA!


Benefit payment: The payment you receive from PFML is a calculation based on the state’s average weekly pay and your take home pay. It is capped at $850. Calculate your benefit here.


Exemptions: There are some exemptions and reasons that your benefit may be reduced such as if you are taking unemployment or chose to use your employer’s PTO. Learn more at the MA Department of Family & Medical Leave.


MA PFML is a state program- not an employer-sponsored program: Benefits are paid and applications are managed by the Commonwealth. You will want to coordinate your leave with your HR in conjunction with the MA Department of Family and Medical Leave.



My AHA! Moments


I mentioned earlier that I had two big revelations about the MA PFML that when I first heard them made me want to shout from the rooftops for all new and expectant parents to hear.


  • If you are the birthing parent, you can stack medical leave and bonding leave. For example, a vaginal birth may be considered a medical event that allows 6 weeks (or 8 for a cesarean) of medical leave and you can take 12 weeks of bonding leave for a total of 18 weeks.


  • You can take your 12 weeks of bonding leave at any time in the first year. For this first year of PFML that creates a unique opportunity. If you had a baby in 2020, even if you took parental leave at the time, you may still be eligible for 12 weeks paid bonding time. This seems like a real gift right now while so many are struggling to navigate home and work with an infant. [note: no longer applicable after 2021]


Not a lawyer

As a disclaimer, I am not a lawyer and this is not meant to be legal advice. If you have questions I encourage you to reach out to your HR department and the MA Department of Family and Medical Leave.


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