Massachusetts Issues Guidance on Private Insurance Plans for Paid Family and Medical Leave Benefits

With the unprecedented issues raised by COVID-19 in Massachusetts and around the world, paid family and medical leave (“PFML”) has become more important than ever. Massachusetts continues to implement its Paid Family Medical Leave Act (“Act”), G. L. c. 175M, which was enacted in June, 2018. The Act entitles workers to up to 20 weeks of job-protected medical leave starting January 1, 2021 and up to 12 weeks of job-protected family leave starting July 1, 2021. Employers that offer the same benefits through a private plan can apply for an exemption from the program. Private plans may be self-insured or fully insured by a carrier.

The Massachusetts Department of Insurance (“DOI”) recently issued guidance that includes a template for insurance policies that demonstrates compliance with the Act. The 17-page template includes all of the rights, protections, and benefits guaranteed by the Act, such as job protection, continued health insurance, and appeals, and explains how the plans will be administered. The guidance clarifies that the Massachusetts Department of Paid Family and Medical Leave (“Department”) will consider insurance policies consistent with the Act if the template is used and carriers submit policy forms to the DOI that offer benefits at least as beneficial as those in the Act.

Carriers who previously submitted Declarations of Insurance as proof of PFML coverage must submit policy forms to the DOI by June 3, 2020. Carriers who submitted such declarations agreed to submit policy forms in accordance with future guidance.

The guidance also includes a checklist for the policies, which must be submitted to the DOI with the policy forms. While the guidance is primarily directed to carriers, employers seeking to implement a self-insured plan may find the checklist and template useful in ensuring compliance with the Act.

Employers that are considering applying for an exemption for a self-insured or privately insured plan may still do so. Applications are accepted on a rolling basis and will be effective in the quarter following approval. The DOI maintains a list of carriers who are able to provide a Declaration of Insurance. The Department’s website contains further information regarding the exemption process.

For more information regarding the rollout of PFML in Massachusetts, see our prior posts on the regulations, guidance, and other issues. Note that, although tax and other deadlines have been extended in light of COVID-19 and the governor’s stay-at-home advisory, the deadlines for PFML compliance have not been extended. Contributions must still be remitted and reports must be filed for each calendar quarter on or before the last day of the month following the quarter’s close.

Employers with questions about the Act and how they should proceed should contact one of Conn Kavanaugh’s experienced employment lawyers.

CATHERINE M. DIVITA

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