The Massachusetts Department of Family and Medical Leave recently announced amendments to Massachusetts Paid Family and Medical Leave (PFML) that will allow employees to supplement, or “top off”, their weekly PFML benefit amount with available paid leave (e.g. vacation days, sick time, PTO). Additionally, PFML contribution rates and weekly benefits will see a sizeable increase. The new “topping off” rules are effective beginning November 1, while the new contribution rates and weekly benefits will be effective as of January 1, 2024.
Starting from November 1, 2023, all employees will be given the choice to supplement their PFML wage replacement benefits with their accumulated paid leave (e.g. vacation days, sick time, PTO) allowing them to receive up to 100% of their wage replacement while on a PFML-qualified leave.
Before this change, employers offering PFML via a private plan could permit their employees to enhance their private plan benefits with their accumulated paid leave. In contrast, individuals receiving PFML benefits through the Commonwealth’s program were unable to utilize their available paid leave during any period of leave in which they received state PFML benefits. Instead, the use of available paid leave was only allowed during the initial seven-day waiting period when PFML benefits were unavailable or as a continuous block of time at the start or end of their PFML leave.
The Massachusetts legislature, taking inspiration from other states’ leave laws, acknowledged the significance of enabling employees to utilize PFML and their accumulated leave balances during these critical periods to fully replace the income they would have otherwise earned if not on leave. Employees will now have the flexibility to decide whether to “top off” their benefits with available paid leave or save their paid time off for a later occasion, and employers must offer this choice to their employees.
You can read more about the “Topping Off” changes here. (link to https://www.mass.gov/important-changes/important-legislative-changes-to-the-massachusetts-paid-family-and-medical-leave-program?auHash=FlJfGYNNc49y_Bno8ULuKV6-CRaBtfK5f9t-_JszTHI)
The Massachusetts Department of Family and Medical Leave is expected to issue guidance in the next coming rates on how to best comply with these new changes, and which should address a new rate notice that must be issued to employees no later than December 2. Guidance is also expected to address how to calculate the difference between PFML benefits and available paid leave to ensure that employees who opt to “top off” their PFML benefits are paid correctly.
Bennett & Belfort, P.C. will keep abreast of further developments and guidance regarding these changes to PFML, and stands ready to assist you with any PFML-related matters.