Important changes are coming to the Massachusetts Paid Family and Medical Leave law (PFML), which requires covered employers to provide eligible employees with paid time off for certain qualifying absences. First, the Massachusetts legislature recently adopted PFML amendments (HB 4053), which, effective November 1, 2023, permit employees to supplement their weekly PFML benefits with accrued paid leave, including vacation, sick time, and other paid time off (PTO). Second, the Massachusetts Department of Paid Family and Medical Leave (DFML) has released the new contribution rates and weekly benefits for 2024. A summary of these changes is below.
“Topping Off” With Other Accrued Leave
“Topping off” is a worker’s practice of using other accrued paid leave to supplement their PFML benefits, including vacation, sick time, or other PTO. Previously, the PFML only permitted, but did not require, employers that provided PFML through a private plan exemption to allow employees to supplement their PFML benefits with accrued paid leave so that the employee received up to 100% of their Individual Average Weekly Wage (IAWW). Workers who received PFML benefits through the Commonwealth’s plan, however, could not “top off” their benefits to receive up to 100% of their IAWW; rather, they could only use accrued paid leave during the seven-day waiting period and before or after receiving PFML benefits.
HB 4053 removes these restrictions to allow certain workers to “top off” their PFML benefits with other forms of paid leave. Specifically, a worker who files an application on or after November 1, 2023 may “top off” their PFML benefits. Likewise, a worker who files a retroactive application for PFML benefits on or after November 1, 2023 for a leave that began before November 1, 2023 may “top off” their PFML benefits. However, a worker who filed for and began an approved leave before November 1, 2023, may not “top off” their PFML benefits under HB 4053.
According to the DFML, employers must inform employees of their new right to supplement PFML benefits with other forms of paid leave. In addition, if an employee elects to “top off” their PFML benefits, the employer is responsible for ensuring that the combined weekly sum of employer-provided paid leave benefits and PFML benefits do not exceed the employee’s IAWW. Employers can find information regarding individual employees’ IAWW on the employee’s PFML Approval Notice. Additional information regarding “topping off” PFML benefits is also available in the DFML’s FAQs for employers.
Updated Contribution Rates and Weekly Benefits for 2024
As of January 1, 2024, the following rates will apply to PFML benefits:
- Maximum Weekly Benefit: The new maximum weekly benefit rate will be $1,149.90. This amount is up from $1,129.82 in 2023.
- Minimum Employer Contribution Amounts: For employers with 25 or more employees, the total contribution rate will increase from 0.63% to 0.88% in 2024. The total contribution rates for employers with less than 25 covered individuals increased from 0.318% to 0.46%.
What Should Employers Do Now?
Employers with a Massachusetts workforce should:
- Review and revise PFML policies to ensure compliance with these changes.
- Update payroll systems to reflect the 2024 contribution rates.
- Provide employees with written notice of these changes and monitor the DFML’s website for publication of updated 2024 workplace posters and other forms.
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