Massachusetts Delays Start for Contributions to Paid Family and Medical Leave Program

On June 11, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker, along with state house and senate leaders, agreed to a three-month extension for employers to begin collecting contributions under the Paid Family Medical Leave Act, G. L. c. 175M (“Act”), from July 1 to October 1. A joint statement issued by Governor Baker, Senate President Karen Spilka, and House Speaker Robert DeLeo indicated that the purpose of the delay is to ensure that employers have adequate time to implement the program and allow lawmakers to adopt technical changes to clarify the program. The three-month delay must still pass both branches of the Legislature, but a favorable vote is expected. Business groups expect that lawmakers may increase the initial contribution rate from 0.63% of wages to 0.75% due to the delayed start, but this increase must be addressed in the legislation. Officials are looking forward to the successful implementation of the program in the fall, according to the statement. The delay will not affect the payment of benefits or eligibility for benefits, as no employees will be eligible for any paid leave until 2021.

Advocacy groups requested this extension in a letter to state leaders on May 20, as we previously reported. The groups sought the extension due to a “lack of employer clarity” on the draft regulations, which are not yet finalized, although the Department of Family and Medical Leave (“Department”) expects to issue them by July 1. The letter also proposed amendments to the Act to clarify certain provisions and more closely align the Act with the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”), which provides for unpaid leave.

The Department recently extended two other deadlines for employer obligations in complying with the Act. The deadline for providing written notice to employees of the rights and benefits available under the Act is now June 30. The Department has issued guidance on this notice, which we covered. The deadline for submitting applications for an exemption from the Act for a private plan for the first quarter is now 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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