The Senate passed the Massachusetts Paid Family and Medical Leave Act. However, it has yet to become law as of early 2018.

Until the governor signs the legislation, residents looking for income replacement benefits must consider the alternatives.

New parents could qualify for unpaid job-protected maternity leave ranging from 0 to 36 weeks. Many variables affect the length of time each person might enjoy.

Follow this outline to determine your rights.

  • Existing options for maternity leave pay
  • Rules offering job and health insurance protections
  • Regulations protecting the rights of pregnant women
  • Number of weeks for mothers, fathers, part-timers, and small business

Does Massachusetts Have Paid Family or Maternity Leave?

Massachusetts laws requiring paid family leave are very sparse. Most parents and caregivers find that they must forgo an income during this time.

The Commonwealth does not provide income replacement benefits as of early 2018. Find possible alternatives for help in the interim.

Financial Assistance

Request a personal loan in order to obtain temporary monetary assistance during maternity leave. Lenders licensed in Massachusetts will review your qualifications. If approved, the infusion of cash can help you stay current on routine bills while you are bonding with your newborn baby.

Make certain that you will be able to return to work quickly, and that your employer will hold your job open. You must repay the lender in monthly installments. That will be difficult to do if you are not earning an income.

Short-Term Disability

Short-term disability in Massachusetts offers paid maternity leave benefits to people who purchased a private policy in advance of their need. The state does have a compulsory program.

New coverage excludes pre-existing conditions for at least 12 months. Therefore, most families facing an extended absence from work are unable to take advantage. You must act proactively.

The policies replace a portion of income for the person who is physically unable to work. They do not cover the care of a sick family member, or newborn baby.

Unemployment Compensation

Unemployment compensation is a poor substitute for paid maternity leave benefits. Massachusetts law has four basic requirements that rule out most applicants absent from work.

  1. Attend a career center seminar
  2. Be physically able to work
  3. Engage in work search activities
  4. Be ready and available to work

Unemployment benefits apply to individuals who lost their jobs through no fault of their own. People taking a legally job-protected temporary work absence do not fit this description. They remain employed.

Those who quit or lost their job because of an extended absence must demonstrate a good cause reason. It was urgent, compelling, and necessitous. Of course, these rules apply only once the person is able and available to resume working.1

Paid Sick Leave Act

The Massachusetts Paid Sick Leave Act (M.G.L. c. 149, § 148C) requires employers to grant earned sick time if an employee’s child, spouse, parent, or parent-in-law is sick or injured or have a routine medical appointment.

The rule applies to employers with more than 11 employees. Those with less personnel must provide unpaid sick time.

Eligible workers accrue sick time at a minimum rate of 1 hour for every 30 hours worked. They qualify to utilize this entitlement for multiple reasons.3-1

  • Dealing with their own medical condition
  • Caring for a family member with a medical issue
  • Attending routine medical appointments
  • Addressing the effects of domestic violence
  • Travel required by any of the above

Paid Family and Medical Leave Bill

The Massachusetts Senate passed the Paid Family and Medical Leave Bill (H.2172). However, as of late 2017, it remains in committee. Perhaps it will become a reality in 2018, or 2019.

The proposed law would provide 16 weeks of partially paid family care leave, and 26 weeks for a temporary disability. The entitlement would begin at 50% income replacement subject to a cap of $1,000 weekly.3

Massachusetts Laws Offering Job and Insurance Protections

Massachusetts has three primary laws offering unpaid job and health insurance protections.

  • Job protections mean the employer must restore the person to the same or similar position. The position must have the same status, pay, length of service credit and seniority.
  • Health insurance protections mean the employer must maintain health insurance and other benefit programs on the same basis as other employees. However, the person must make any cost-share contributions using after-tax dollars.

Parental Leave Law

The Massachusetts Parental Leave Law requires employers with 6 or more employees to provide 8 weeks of unpaid leave for new mothers and fathers. The Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD) enforces this regulation.

The commission updated the earlier Maternity Leave Act in 2015 to include men. Hence, the gender-neutral change of names.

Three situations trigger the rights of full-time personnel.3-2

  1. Giving birth and adoption
  2. Placement of child in the home under the age of 18
  3. Placement of a mentally or physically disabled person under the age of 23

Parents enjoy extended time off with the birth of twins, triplets, etc.

  • Twins: mom gave birth twice and qualifies for 16 weeks
  • Triplets: mom gave birth three times and qualifies for 24 weeks

Family Medical Leave Act

The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a federal law that applies to many workers in Massachusetts. FMLA provides 12 weeks of unpaid job and health insurance protections.

FMLA qualifying reasons include the following.3-3

  1. The employee’s own serious medical condition
  2. Taking care of your newly born infant
  3. Placing an adoptive or foster child in your home
  4. Providing care to a close family member (such as your parent, child, or spouse) with a significant medical problem

FMLA covered employers have 50 or more employees working within a 75-mile radius of the affected person. Eligible workers logged 1,250 hours over the previous 12 months for the same employer.

Small Necessities Law

The Massachusetts Small Necessities Act (m.g.l. c. 149, s. 52d) requires employers to grant twenty-four hours of leave during any twelve-month period. Covered reasons include the following.3-4

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

Workers qualify if the employer has 50 or more employees. In addition, the person must work 1,250 in the previous 12 months for the same employer. This time off is in addition to the federal FMLA.

Massachusetts Pregnancy Accommodation Laws

Two labor laws regarding pregnancy accommodation protect the rights of expectant women in Massachusetts. These regulations make it illegal to discriminate against prenatal women in hiring practices and in the workplace.

Pregnant Workers Fairness Act

The Massachusetts Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (H. 3680) became law in 2017. The new rule prohibits workplace and hiring discrimination related to pregnancy and nursing. It also requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations for expectant and new mothers in the workplace.

Reasonable accommodations include access to less strenuous workloads, altered work schedules, time off with or without pay and private nursing space.4

Pregnancy Disability Act

The Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) is a federal regulation that also applies to women in Massachusetts. The PDA protects expectant women’s rights while looking for a job, and when actively employed. It contains specific requirements regarding work reassignments, modified schedules, breastfeeding, and health insurance.

  • Employer groups of 15 or more must fulfill the requirements
  • Federal government agencies must comply with the rules

Length of Massachusetts Family and Maternity Leave

How long do maternity and family leave unpaid job protections last in Massachusetts? The answer depends on a wide range of factors.

  • PLA does not apply to small businesses with fewer than 8 workers
  • FMLA does not cover small businesses with less than 50 personnel
  • Part-time workers are often ineligible under both regulations
    • FMLA requires 1,250 hours worked over last 12 months with the same employer
    • PLA excludes part-timers as defined in the employee handbook
  • FMLA and PLA run concurrently for adoption and giving birth
  • FMLA and PLA run sequentially when a serious health condition precedes childbirth
  • PLA extends the length of time when parents have twins and triplets

Mothers on Maternity Leave

The length of maternity leave in Massachusetts illustrates the wide variety of possible outcomes for mothers. The legal rights vary by employer size and the experience of the woman. Her unpaid job protections could range from 0 to 36 weeks depending on circumstances.

  • 0 weeks when PLA does not apply
  • 8 weeks when FMLA does not apply
  • 12 weeks when mom and baby are healthy
    • The two laws run concurrently
  • 16 weeks when mom delivers twins
  • 20 weeks when the mother experiences pregnancy complications before a singleton birth
    • The two laws run sequentially
    • 12 for her condition
    • 8 for baby bonding
  • 24 weeks when mom delivers triplets
  • 28 weeks when the mother experiences pregnancy complications before twin birth
    • 12 for her disability
    • 16 baby bonding
  • 36 weeks when mom suffers pregnancy complications before triplet birth
    • 12 for her condition
    • 24 baby bonding

Fathers on Paternity Leave

The length of paternity leave for Massachusetts fathers follows a similar pattern. However, men do not stack the FMLA and PLA legal protections sequentially as often. Therefore, their unpaid time off typically ends more quickly.

New fathers do not take paternity leave for their own medical condition. Therefore, the two laws run concurrently in most instances.

  • 8 weeks when PLA applies
  • 12 weeks when FMLA applies

Men sometimes take paternity leave to care for his sick wife dealing with complications before her due date. The two laws run sequentially in this instance. However, this is very rare. Both parents would have to forgo income at the same time.

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