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The Massachusetts Legislature recently amended the Massachusetts Paid Family and Medical Leave Program, M.G.L. c. 175M, affecting employees’ ability to utilize paid leave, including sick time, vacation, paid time off, and personal time, to supplement their Paid Family Medical Leave (“PFML”) benefits. The change will go into effect on November 1, 2023 and will apply to applications filed on or after that date.
Currently under PFML, employees are not allowed to supplement their PFML benefits with paid leave. Employees may only utilize paid leave during the seven-day waiting period before benefits begin or to extend paid leave after PFML benefits are exhausted. The only exception is for employees whose employer has obtained an exemption from participating in the PFML program by maintaining its own private paid leave plan providing benefits greater than or equal to those provided under PFML. If the private pay plan permits use of paid leave to supplement benefits, employees are free to do so.
Beginning November 1, 2023, if an employee chooses to supplement their PFML benefits with paid leave, the total weekly sum, including PFML and paid leave, cannot exceed the employee’s Individual Average Weekly Wage (“IAWW”). An employee’s IAWW is calculated by the Department of Family Medical Leave (“department”) and is the average sum the employee earned per week in the two quarters out of the preceding four quarters when the employee earned the most money. If the employee only worked two or fewer quarters, the IAWW is the average amount earned per week in the quarter where the employee earned the most money.
The department has tasked employers with monitoring the total weekly sum of PFML benefits and employer-provided paid leave to ensure compliance. There is no reporting requirement for the employer to inform the department of an employee’s use of paid leave to supplement PFML benefits. The department has cautioned employees to cease using paid leave to cover their full salary after the seven-day waiting period to avoid the weekly sum exceeding their IAWW.
Finally, the department has announced changes to the maximum weekly benefit amount employees may receive in PFML benefits and contribution rates on eligible employee wages for 2024. Beginning January 1, 2024, the new maximum weekly benefit will be $1,149.90 per month (up from $1,129.82 in 2023). The new contribution rate for employers with more than twenty-five (25) employees on eligible employee wages will be .88% (up from .63% in 2023). For employers with less than twenty-five (25) employees, the new contribution rate on eligible employee wages will be .46% (up from .318% in 2023).