- Bonding leave can be used for birth, adoption, or foster care placements that occurred in 2020;
- Employers may not be required to collect PFML contributions for employees “temporarily working remotely” in Massachusetts due to the pandemic;
- For medical leaves, employers cannot set a minimum increment for intermittent leave that exceeds one hour;
- Only payments made through an employer’s self-insured temporary disability, family, or medical leave policy, or payments made from an extended illness leave bank will qualify under the PFML reimbursement program.
On January 12, 2021, the Massachusetts Department of Paid Family and Medical Leave (“Department”) issued additional information, including updated Frequently Asked Questions (“FAQs”), guidance on intermittent leave, and information on reimbursements for qualifying paid leave plans under the Paid Family and Medical Leave program (“PFML” or “Program”). This article reviews key highlights of the recent updates to PFML.
As a reminder, employees are entitled to up to 26 weeks of leave based on qualifying conditions under PFML. Effective January 1, 2021, eligible individuals may begin taking PFML for the following reasons:
- If they have a serious medical condition;
- Bonding with a child born, adopted, or fostered within the prior 12 months; or
- To care for a covered service member with a serious health condition.
Paid family leave benefits to care for a family member with a serious health condition will become available on July 1, 2021. An application for all other benefits can now be made through the Department’s website.
1. PMFL Benefits May be Available for Birth, Adoption, or Foster Care Placements that Occurred in 2020
On December 21, 2020, the Department published emergency regulations clarifying that PFML bonding leave can be used for birth, adoption or foster care placements that occurred in 2020. Under the law, an employee may take family leave under the Program within the first 12 months after the child’s birth, adoption or foster care placement with the employee.
2. Change to PFML Intermittent Leave Requirements
The Department clarified that an employer cannot set a minimum leave increment that is greater than one hour for intermittent PFML leave taken for any of the following qualifying reasons:
- To care for an employee’s own or family member’s serious health condition;
- To care for a covered servicemember with a serious injury or illness; or
- For leave for due to a qualifying exigency.
This new guidance does not impact intermittent and reduced schedule for family leave for the purpose of bonding (employers are still able to set a minimum increment for this leave policy).
3. Revised Guidance on the Collection of PFML Contributions for Remote Workers
On December 8, 2020, the Department issued revised technical guidance on Massachusetts tax implications for employees working remotely due solely to the COVID-19 pandemic. Under the PFML program, unless an employer obtains a private plan exemption, employers are required to collect and remit PFML contributions on behalf of employees performing services in Massachusetts. The revised technical guidance states that until 90 days after the COVID-19 state of emergency is lifted in Massachusetts:
- An individual who previously performed services outside of Massachusetts and was not subject to PFML will not become subject to PFML solely because the individual is temporarily working from a location in Massachusetts due to the pandemic;
- An individual who previously performed services in Massachusetts but is temporarily working from a location outside of Massachusetts solely due to a Pandemic-Related Circumstance continues to be subject to the PFML rules.
Employers should consult with employment counsel and/or their tax advisors to determine which employees require contributions to the Program in light of the ongoing pandemic.
4. Reimbursements for Qualified Paid Leave Programs through PFML
An employer that has a private benefit plan, but has not otherwise received an exemption to the PFML program from the Massachusetts Department of Revenue, may be eligible to be reimbursed for those paid benefits (see M.G.L. c. 175M, Section 3(c)). For additional information about PFML private plan exemptions, please visit our prior blog.
In its recent guidance, the Department clarified that only payments made through a self-insured temporary disability, family, or medical leave policy, or payments made from an extended illness leave bank are reimbursable from the state program. Employers who have fully insured plans will not be reimbursed for payments made from an insurer. For more information about the PFML reimbursement program, please visit our blog.
- Paid Family and Medical Leave Regulations
- Technical Information Release (December 8, 2020)
- Massachusetts Department of Paid Family and Medical Leave
- Reimbursements for Qualified Paid Leave Programs through PFML
- Certification of Serious Health Condition Form
- Sequoia Blog: Massachusetts Releases Paid Family Leave Final Regulations
- Sequoia Blog: Massachusetts Clarifies Requirements for PFML Reimbursement Program
- Sequoia Blog: Massachusetts Releases Paid Family Medical Leave Exemption Guidance
Disclaimer: This content is intended for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal, medical or tax advice. It provides general information and is not intended to encompass all compliance and legal obligations that may be applicable. This information and any questions as to your specific circumstances should be reviewed with your respective legal counsel and/or tax advisor as we do not provide legal or tax advice. Please note that this information may be subject to change based on legislative changes. © 2021 Sequoia Benefits & Insurance Services, LLC. All Rights Reserved