Massachusetts Maternity Leave Act
Massachusetts Maternity Leave Act
The Massachusetts Maternity Leave Act is an important employment law for employers and workers in the Commonwealth. The Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination has published detailed guidelines, which are summarized below in a fact sheet format.
MMLA Eligibility Guidelines, Rights, and Requirements
The Massachusetts Maternity Leave Act (MMLA) has a detailed listing of eligibility guidelines that spell out your rights and requirements.
The MMLA applies to employers with 6 or more employees. The legal language does not provide a definition of employee, so small businesses that might hire part-time workers need to be careful in following the legal guidelines for eligibility.
Female employees are eligible for job protected leave if you satisfy several requirements:
MMLA may be available to men even though the statute applies only to females. How can this be? Massachusetts has other statutes that prevent discrimination based upon gender, and the laws may be in conflict. Men seeking job protected paternity leave may find that employers would rather not run afoul of these conflicting regulations, and grant the leave.
Paid MA Maternity Leave
Both the MMLA and FMLA allow for unpaid job protection benefits. Women experiencing a pregnancy disability prior to delivery may enjoy up to 20 weeks of job protection, but much of this time will be unpaid. There are several options to continue your income during this time away from the job.
You may voluntarily use your accumulated sick days, vacation days, and personal days to provide some pay during this time. Your employer may not require you to use these accumulated days. Currently twenty two states allow you to use unemployment insurance benefits when providing care for a family member with an illness. The federal government provides incentives to states to expand unemployment benefits in this manner. As of 2012, Massachusetts has not taken advantage of these incentives.
If your leave extends beyond the length of job protected time, you may be eligible for unemployment benefits once your are able to return to work, and if your employer did not hold open your job.
Short term disability for pregnancy is the ideal way to create a paid maternity leave in MA. Benefits are paid for normal delivery. Purchase your policy before getting pregnant to qualify for income replacement while at home recovering from delivery. Pregnancy disability may also be covered.
Massachusetts Maternity Leave Act & FMLA
The MMLA statute and the Federal Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) are separate regulations with differing requirements, and rights. At times they overlap or work concurrently, and in other circumstances they are applied very differently. The most important differences relate to who is covered, what happens when mom misses work due to pregnancy complications, and how the length of time is determined.
The two regulations apply to different employer groups. The Massachusetts act applies to employers and small businesses employing six or more employees. The federal regulation applies only workers in locations with fifty or more employees within a 75 mile radius of the worksite. The MA rule covers more women.
The two leaves must be taken concurrently when the eligible reasons are the same: the birth or adoption of a child. An employee eligible under both statutes would not get longer job protected leave. Pregnancy disability is one instance where the two statutes work together to lengthen job proctected time. The FMLA applies to your own disability, and provides up to 12 weeks. In theory, a woman could leave work three months prior to delivery, and then tack on eight weeks of MMLA to take care of her infant at home.
The two laws also work differently in how the length of time is calculated. The FMLA allows for 12 weeks in any 12 month period, whereas the MMLA allows for 8 weeks each time she gives birth. A woman with “Irish Twins” could deliver twice within 12 months, and get two sets of 8 weeks under MMLA.
MMLA Twins and Mulltiple Birth
The MMLA provides for 8 weeks of leave each time a woman gives birth, giving rise to an unusual policy within the statute relating to multiple birth. A woman can lengthen her leave by 8 weeks for each infant born:
Hospital indemnity insurance is an ideal purchase to make before getting pregnant. Not only does it cover your normal singleton delivery, but it often pays additional benefits when multiples are born. Multiples are often born preterm and may spend time in neonatal intensive care. This coverage is a great way to offset much of your lost income.
MMLA and Health Insurance
The MMLA does not require that employers pay for the cost of any benefit while you are not working. Many employers subsidize the premium cost for group health insurance, life coverage, disability programs, etc. While you are away on your unpaid leave, expect to find an unwelcome surprise when you can least afford one: your insurance premiums jump through the roof.
Many couples are unaware of how much employers contribute towards the cost of health plans until they have to pay the full cost themselves. And with a newborn at home, keeping coverage in force is critical. These extra costs are just another reason why any growing family planning a pregnancy should look into purchasing short term disability before getting pregnant.
Source: MA Commission Against Discrimination