Groups Request Extension of Deadline to Begin Collecting Paid Family and Medical Leave Contributions and Propose Amendments to Law

On May 20, nine advocacy groups submitted a letter to state leaders requesting a three-month extension of the July 1 deadline to begin collecting contributions under the Paid Family Medical Leave Act, G. L. c. 175M (“Act”), to October 1, and proposing several amendments to the Act. Currently, employers must begin making payroll deductions on July 1 and remit contributions to the Department of Family and Medical Leave (“the Department”) by October 31. The proposed amendments to the Act would clarify certain provisions and more closely align the Act with the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”), which currently provides for unpaid leave.

The letter explains that the delay is needed due to a “lack of employer clarity” on the draft regulations, which are not yet finalized, although the Department expects to issue final regulations by July 1. The letter emphasizes the importance of communicating with employees about deductions from their paychecks and the time needed for insurers to begin offering a private plan option. Because no employees will be eligible for any paid leave until 2021, the letter notes that the extension would not affect the payment of benefits or eligibility for benefits.

The letter also proposes five amendments to the Act, which would clarify that: (1) leave taken on an intermittent basis reduces the amount of remaining leave available to an employee; and (2) eligibility for leave for an employee’s own serious health condition arises when the condition makes the employee unable to perform the functions of his or her job. The language of the proposed amendments tracks the language of the FMLA.

The Department recently extended two other deadlines for employer obligations in complying with the Act, as we previously reported. On May 1, the Department extended the deadline for providing written notice to employees of the rights and benefits available under the Act from May 31 to June 30. We covered the Department’s guidance on this notice in a prior post. On May 1, the Department also extended the deadline for submitting applications for an exemption from the Act for a private plan for the first quarter, from June 30 to September 20.

These obligations are part of a larger scheme rolling out paid family and medical leave in Massachusetts in the coming months, as explained in our prior posts.

The Department continues to release frequent guidance on complying with the Act, which we will monitor. Check back for further updates on this important development in Massachusetts.

Employers with questions about the Act and how they should proceed to ensure they will be in compliance throughout its phased implementation should contact one of Conn Kavanaugh’s experienced employment lawyers.

CATHERINE M. DIVITA

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