Mass. Leaders Delay Paid Family & Medical Leave Program by 3 Months

Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker, Senate President Karen Spilka, and House Speaker Robert DeLeo issued a joint statement yesterday announcing their agreement to extend the July 1 starting date for contributions to the new paid family and medical leave program by Massachusetts businesses by three months. The delay will ensure businesses have adequate time to adjust. The goal is to have the new tax in place by the fall and the program will be financed by the new payroll tax on employers.

Workers would be allowed to take up to 12 weeks of paid leave to care for a family member and 20 weeks for their own medical needs. Workers on paid leave will earn 80 percent of their wages up to 50 percent of the state average weekly wage, then 50 percent of wages above that amount. The employer is required to pay at least 60 percent of the medical leave contribution required for each employee. The employer is required to pay none of the contribution for family leave. Employers may pay a higher percentage for each category of leave or elect to pay the entire contribution for each employee.

The proposed adjustments to the law include five amendments intended to provide clarity on issues such as intermittent leave and the definition of “serious medical condition.” The clarifying amendments will also align core principles of the Massachusetts paid family and medical leave law with the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).

The delay will not reduce total contributions paid to the new family and medical leave trust fund because the state will increase the contribution rate from .63 percent to .75 percent of wages. The new contribution rate will raise the tax for an employee earning the state average weekly wage from $872 per year to $1,038 per year.

Workers will be able to access paid leave benefits beginning in January 2021.