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Summary: Starting November 1, 2023, employees receiving Massachusetts Paid Family Medical Leave (MA PFML) benefits from the state are allowed to supplement, or “top off,” their weekly MA PFML benefit with accrued paid time off (PTO), such as vacation, personal, and sick time, up to 100% of their average weekly wage. Massachusetts, previously an outlier, now joins the ranks of other states that permit PTO leave to “top off” state-mandated paid family and medical leave benefits.
Read on for more information.
MA PFML, enacted in 2018 and fully implemented in 2021, provides paid family and medical leave benefits for covered individuals working in Massachusetts, including current full-time and part-time employees, certain former employees, as well as seasonal and contractor employees. Covered individuals are eligible for up to 12 weeks for family leave and 20 weeks for medical leave (with a combined maximum of 26 weeks in any year).
Qualifying MA PFML reasons include the following:
Since MA PFML is job-protected leave, employers are prohibited from retaliating against employees for their use of MA PFML. Employers are also required to continue providing and contributing to employees’ health coverage while on MA PFML.
Employers must post and distribute certain MA PFML information to their employees, including new hires, such as a workplace poster, an employee notice, and a rate sheet — sample templates of which can be accessed here.
Employers with 25 or more employees working in Massachusetts are required to contribute to the MA PFML program. Employee contributions are capped at the Social Security taxable maximum, which is currently set at $168,600 for 2024. MA PFML benefits received are based on a percentage of an employee’s typical wages, up to a maximum amount set by the Massachusetts Department of Family and Medical Leave ($1,144.90 per week for 2024).
Finally, employers may opt out of the MA PFML contribution requirements by applying for an exemption from the state as long as their own paid family and medical leave program under a private plan is at least as generous as the MA PFML program with the same rights and protections.
Massachusetts amended the MA PFML program on October 16, 2023 in its 2024 state budget to allow employees to choose to “top off” their MA PFML benefits with accrued paid time off (PTO) leave, such as vacation, personal, and sick time, beginning on November 1, 2023. Notably, an employer may not require an employee to use accrued PTO to top off their MA PFML benefit; employees have sole discretion to choose to “top off” their MA PFML benefit with their accrued PTO leave.
Prior to November 1, 2023, employees were not allowed to use accrued PTO while also receiving MA PFML benefits. If employees were paid from their accrued PTO leave during their MA PFML, the state would not pay any MA PFML benefits.
Employees’ IAWW: Topping off allows employees on MA PFML to supplement their weekly MA PFML benefit with their accrued PTO, up to 100% of the employee’s Individual Average Weekly Wage (IAWW). An employee’s IAWW is calculated by the Massachusetts Department of Family and Medical Leave (DFML) from the amount an employee earned in the last four completed calendar quarters before the start of the employee’s benefit year. The IAWW is the average amount the employee earned per week in the two quarters when the employee earned the most money (or the one quarter with the most money if the employee only worked in two or fewer quarters).
Calculating “Top Off” Amounts: Employers calculate the “top off” amount for each employee by subtracting the amount of the MA PFML benefit from the employee’s IAWW. The difference is the maximum amount that can be paid out using the employee’s accrued PTO.
Overpayments: Employers are responsible for managing any payments made to an employee that exceeds 100% of the employee’s IAWW. Employees are responsible for working with their employer to make sure that the combined weekly sum of PTO and MA PFML benefits does not exceed 100% of an employee’s IAWW.
Employers do not have to report those employees choosing to use PTO to “top off” their MA PFML benefit to the DFML since it does not impact their weekly MA PFML benefit.
Private Plans: MA PFML private plans are now required to permit employees to “top off” their private MA PFML benefit with PTO and other forms of accrued paid leave. Prior to November 1, 2023, employers with private MA PFML plans could decide whether or not to permit their employees to “top off” private MA PFML benefits with PTO.
Retroactive MA PFML leave: Any applications filed on or after November 1, 2023, retroactively for a leave that began before November 1, 2023, are eligible to be topped off.
Click here for a recent Risk Strategies detailing the MA PFML updates for 2024.
Employers are advised to review and update, as necessary, their PTO leave policies and handbooks to reflect this new PTO “top off” development under MA PFML and monitor the DFML webpage for guidance on this topic.
Employers should also notify their employees that they have the option to use their available accrued PTO to supplement their MA PFML benefits while on leave, up to 100% of the employee’s average weekly wage.
Risk Strategies is committed to keeping employers informed and up-to-date. Contact us directly at email@example.com.
 Family member generally means spouse, domestic partner, children (including stepchildren or children of a domestic partner), parents, parents of spouse/domestic partner, grandchildren, grandparents, and siblings.
 If you are an employer that has employees working outside of Massachusetts, those out-of-state employees are not counted as part of your workforce count for this purpose.