Massachusetts labor laws regarding maternity leave include state-based regulations along with federal statutes. Most people think about the Maternity Leave Act (MMLA).

There are other regulations that may apply, and the interaction between laws can make a difference. Families desiring to take time at home to bond with their baby have some additional job protections that residents of other states do not have. However, paid family leave is not a state mandated benefit. Couples need to purchase the right coverage in advance of conception.

  • Maternity Leave Act
  • Versus FMLA
  • Small Necessities Leave Act

Paid Maternity Leave Options

Massachusetts paid maternity leave options are fairly sparse. 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.

Short-Term Disability

Short-term disability benefits often provide income replacement during a pregnancy disability, and while taking maternity leave to recover from childbirth. 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.

Unemployment Compensation

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 you are able to return to work, and if your employer did not hold open your job.

Massachusetts Maternity Leave Act

The Massachusetts Maternity Leave Act (MMLA) is an important state specific employment law for employers and workers in the Commonwealth. The law provides for 8 weeks of unpaid job-protected leave for full time employees working in the state.

Eligibility Requirements

Full time employees are eligible for job-protected leave if you satisfy several requirements:

  1. You met your employer’s probationary period as a full time employee.
  2. You are taking leave for the birth of a newborn, adoption of a child under the age of 18, or adopting a disabled adult under the age of 23.
  3. You give your employer at least 2 weeks written notice.

The MMLA requires that an employee on leave be restored to her previous or a similar position upon her return to employment following leave. That position must have the same status, pay, length of service credit and seniority as the position the employee held prior to the leave.

When determining full time status your employer must consider such factors as hours worked, days worked, benefits received, other leave entitlement, the employer’s policies and other factors tending to show whether the employee is treated as a full time employee.

Now Applies to Men

The Massachusetts Maternity Leave Act now applies to men. The labor law was amended in 2008 to be applied in a gender-neutral fashion. 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.

Twins and Multiple Births

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:

  • Twins – 16 weeks
  • Triplets – 24 weeks
  • Quads – 32 weeks

Health Insurance Continuation

The Massachusetts Maternity Leave Act 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. In addition, with a newborn at home, keeping coverage in force is critical. Do not allow your policy to lapse. If you are planning to have additional children, a lapse in coverage may influence how the Massachusetts infertility mandate applies to your circumstance.

Versus Family Medical Leave Act

Massachusetts labor laws regarding maternity leave include federal regulations such as the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). The MMLA and FMLA are separate regulations with differing requirements, and rights. 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.

Covered Employers

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.

Concurrent Leave

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 protected 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.

MA Small Necessities Leave Act

The final Massachusetts labor law regarding maternity leave is the Small Necessities Leave Act. This regulation requires employers to grant twenty four hours of leave during any twelve-month period. Covered reasons for this leave are defined as:

  1. Participate in school activities of a son or daughter
  2. Accompany a son or daughter to medical and dental appointments
  3. Accompany an elderly parent on routine medical and dental appointments

State Employees

State employees are entitled to up to 26 weeks of unpaid time away from work for the birth of a newborn, or newly placed child via adoption or foster care. Your own inability to work can be covered by this regulation. Therefore, if you experience complications prior to giving birth, or needed extended time to recover, you can take the time needed without losing your job.

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