The Connection Magazine AIM MUTUAL Fall 2019 - Page 3

MA EMPLOYMENT L AW Navigating Paid Family and Medical Leave in Massachusetts MASSACHUSETTS WILL soon join the likes of New Jersey, Rhode Island, New York, Washington, California and the District of Columbia with a law regarding Paid Family and Medical Leave (PFML). The law in Massachusetts, which will be the most generous in the country, will be effective January 1, 2021 for medical leaves and July 1, 2021 for family leaves. However, employer contributions began on October 1, 2019 for those employers electing to participate in the state-run program. The law applies to all employers who employ at least one employee; sole proprietors can opt into the plan if they wish to. This new law creates many challenges for employers in the state of Massachusetts. Not only do employers have to learn the requirements of this new law, they must also coordinate these requirements with other types of leave laws and benefit offerings they may currently have in place. Laws such as the federal Family and Medical Leave Act, Mass Parental Leave Act, MA Earned Sick Time Law, MA Domestic Violence Leave, MA Small Necessities Leave Act, Short-term Disability and Long- term Disability, among others, will need to be coordinated with the new MA Paid Family and Medical Leave law. To put a little perspective on some of the differences, the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) allows for certain family members to be covered under the law, while the new Massachusetts Paid Family and Medical Leave allows for a more expanded list of family members. When applying the law, an employer must provide coverage for family members as defined by the MA leave policy. These family members would not have been otherwise covered under the federal FMLA. The new MA Paid Family and Medical Leave allows for employees to • take up to 20 weeks of paid leave to take care of their own personal health condition; • take up to 12 weeks of paid leave to care for a sick relative; and • take up to 26 weeks of paid leave to take care of a military family member. No employee will be entitled to any more than 26 weeks off in any 12-month period. Any type of leave taken under this policy will provide job protection for the employee. Employees can apply for leave, effective with their first day of employment, provided they pass the minimal eligibility requirements. The Decision to Opt Out One major decision for employers to make is whether they want to opt out of the state plan and administer the program themselves or purchase insurance through the private market. Employers who opt out must provide at least the same level of coverage being offered by the state. New insurance products are being introduced to the market every day so employers need to understand what coverages are being offered in order to make an informed decision about which option will work best for their organizations. For some, the state program will be the best option, but, for others, self-funding or private insurance coverage may be the better choice. Going through the pros and cons is not a simple task for employers. There are still many unanswered questions about how the program will work. Whatever route employers choose, they are required to educate their employees. They must post the state notice and ensure all employees acknowledge the notice. TERI BOWMAN TERI BOWMAN, SHRM-SCP, is Director of Human Resources at A.I.M. Mutual Insurance Companies. Teri has more than ten years of HR experience including recruitment, employee relations, training, compensation, benefits administration, workers’ compensation, and areas of compliance. 3