Massachusetts Paid Family and Medical Leave – Updates from the State

By Erica Honig, Compliance Director of Employee Benefits

Massachusetts Paid Family and Medical Leave – Updates from the State

The Massachusetts Department of Family and Medical Leave (the “Department”) recently announced several changes in connection with the Massachusetts Paid Family and Medical Leave (“PFML”).  Read on for more information discussing these changes.

  • Contribution Rate: Effective January 1, 2022, the new contribution rate for eligible employee wages will be 0.68%, a decrease from the current 0.75% rate.  This rate is applicable to MA employers with 25 or more covered individuals and reflects a decrease to both the paid family leave and paid medical leave contributions.
  • Average Weekly Wage Rate: Effective January 1, 2022, the new average weekly wage in MA will be $1,694.24, an increase from $1,487.78 in 2021.
  • Maximum PFML Benefit Amount: Due to the increase in the average weekly rate as outlined above, the maximum amount of weekly PFML benefits that a covered individual can receive in 2022 will be $1,084.31, an increase from $850 in 2021.
  • Medical Leave Form Update:  The medical leave form submitted by covered individuals seeking medical leave now includes specific questions related to pregnancy and childbirth.  During pregnancy, any incapacity due to pregnancy or prenatal care satisfies the continuing treatment requirement for a serious health condition.  Post-pregnancy, a serious health condition must involve at least one night of inpatient care or continuing treatment by a health care provider.
  • Companies Leaving Private Plans:  The Department issued new guidance for employers who initially received a private plan exemption prior to January 1, 2021 but now want to switch to the state plan.  In order to avoid paying retroactive contributions, these employers will be required to complete one renewal cycle. A renewal cycle consists of an initial term of four quarters and one renewal term of four quarters. An employer that terminates a private plan prior to the renewal cycle requirement will be responsible to remit retroactive contributions back to the effective date of the initial exemption for failure to renew. If an employer has satisfied one complete renewal cycle, at that time, an employer may terminate its private plan without owing retroactive contributions.

Example: If an employer’s initial exemption effective date was January 1, 2020, the first date this employer can switch to the state plan without owing retroactive contributions is January 1, 2022.

  • Intersection of Other Leave/Benefits With PFML: The Department updated the website section that explains how other leave and benefits provided to covered individuals, including any disability and wage replacement programs, may intersect and affect their PFML benefits.  As a reminder, the following programs may reduce the amount of PFML benefits that a covered individual receives if these benefits are received during the PFML period:
    • Unemployment benefits
    • Worker’s Compensation (for the same injury that an employee is requesting PFML)
    • Social Security programs, including SSI or SSDI
    • Employer-provided disability or paid family/medical leave policies (reduction of PFML benefits only if the total amount received from both payments is greater than the employee’s average weekly wage)

For employer-provided paid time off (PTO), an employee may not use PTO while also receiving PFML benefits.  Note that since there is a 7-day waiting period before PFML benefits begin, employees may use PTO during this 7-day waiting period with no consequence to their PFML benefit.  Employees can also use PTO once their PFML period ends.

  • 2021 PFML Annual Report:

The Department is required to furnish an annual report, outlining details in connection with applications submitted for PFML benefits. This first annual report for 2021 provides details regarding applications submitted between January 1st and  June 30th 2021 and can be accessed here.

Highlights include:

  • Application Numbers: 53,429 applications were submitted during the first 6 months of PFML benefits:
    • 58.13% were for medical leave
    • 41.81% were for child bonding leave
    • 0.03% were for military exigency leave, and
    • 0.01% were to care for a service member
  • Application Approval Rate:  81.30% of applications were approved, which included 3,207 applications approved upon appeal of an initial benefit denial.
  • Benefit Denials: Insufficient or non-compliant documentation was the most prevalent reason for benefit denials.
  • Claimant Demographics:
    • The largest share of applicants were individuals in the 30-39 age range.
    • Females accounted for more than twice the number of applications submitted as men.
    • The top three occupational sectors who received benefits were office employees and administrative support, management and healthcare practitioners.
  • Claims Processing Time: On average, the Department issued benefit decisions within 17 days of application submission, with an additional 11 days as the median time to issue an initial payment following an approval.
  • Leave Duration: The average duration of a completed leave was 53 days from start to finish, or 10.7 weeks.  Medical leave duration averaged 57 days while family leave duration averaged 51.5 days.

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