Massachusetts Paid Family and Medical Leave Act Allows Adding Accrued Sick and Vacation Pay to Benefits
Jeffrey S. Brody, Matthew D. Freeman, Samia M. Kirmani, Brian E. Lewis & Keerthi Sugumaran
A provision in the enacted state budget for fiscal year 2023 amends the Massachusetts Paid Family and Medical Leave Act (PFMLA) to provide employers and employees more flexibility to use other accrued benefits to supplement paid benefits received from the state.
Beginning in 2021, nearly all Massachusetts employees are entitled to receive up to 12 weeks of paid family leave to care for a family member or to bond with a new child, and up to 20 weeks of paid medical leave to address their own serious medical issues. Contributions from employers, employees, and the self-employed are collected to finance this paid leave benefit.
Currently, the maximum weekly benefit provided by the state for individuals on PFMLA leave is $1,084.31. Individuals who earn more than this amount on a weekly basis wishing to supplement this state-paid benefit may use funds from:
- a temporary disability policy or program of an employer; or
- a paid family or medical leave policy of an employer (such as a paid parental leave policy).
Previously, if the employer participated in the state program, the Department of Family and Medical Leave did not allow employers to supplement the PFMLA benefits with payments from sick leave policies, vacation policies, or general paid time off (PTO) policies (employers with private plans were not affected by this policy). Further, if an employee received payments from any of those PTO policies, the state took the position that it would not pay any PFMLA benefits during the leave.
Under the amendment, employers and employees may supplement the PFMLA benefit payments with “any accrued sick or vacation pay or other paid leave provided under an employer policy.” Accordingly, employers participating in the state plan now can supplement the PFMLA benefit with accrued sick, vacation, or other paid leave.
This amendment to the PFMLA is effective immediately. Other parts of the PFMLA are unchanged, including: an employer cannot force an employee to use these benefits to supplement the PFMLA benefit; and the employee must be allowed to choose to use the benefit.
Being able to use accrued benefits during a PFMLA leave to receive additional payment during the leave may encourage employees to make greater use of the available PFMLA time, as they can receive more money to cover the leave.
Employers should review their sick leave, vacation leave, and paid time off policies to ensure compliance with the PFMLA. Employers also should make clear when and how an employee can seek to supplement the PFMLA benefits.
***This article originally appeared on the Jackson Lewis’ Disability, Leave & Health Management blog and was reposted on the DMEC website with their permission.***