How long does parental leave last in Massachusetts, and how much money do you get? The answer to these questions will change radically beginning January 1, 2021.

Most mothers on maternity leave will be able to take off for twenty-six weeks with partial income replacement – up to a maximum of $850 per month.

On the other hand, most fathers will receive the same amount of paid time off, but his paternity leave will end after twelve weeks.

Of course, every rule has an exception – including what happens until the new regulations take effect.

MA Parental Leave Amounts

Many parents in Massachusetts naturally ask how much money you get during maternity or paternity leave, and how long do the claim checks last. The answers to this critical question vary for several reasons. Pay close attention and budget accordingly.

Loans

Maternity leave loans are an option for parents who want to spend quality time bonding with their infant. The extra money can allow your time off to continue longer, or fund the purchase of baby stuff like bassinets, diapers, and formula.

If approved, a lender licensed in Massachusetts can deposit the funding directly into your checking account. Review your legal job rights before borrowing money, as you must repay the lender.

Paid Family Medical Leave

New parents in Massachusetts can begin using the Paid Family Medical Leave (PFMLA) benefits starting January 1, 2021.[1] The formula determining the amount works the same for moms and dads. However, the claim checks often continue coming in much longer for birth mothers.

Eligibility

Many new parents automatically qualify for PFMLA because the law attempts to cover most people who work in Massachusetts. However, there are at least three notable exceptions.

  1. Self-employed individuals who do not opt into the program or wait too long to enroll are ineligible. You must meet minimum standards before filing a claim.
    1. Make contributions in two of the preceding four calendar quarters
    2. Report earnings of at least $4,700 over the four most recently completed quarters
  2. Residents who commute across the border to work in Connecticut, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, or New Hampshire are not eligible.
  3. Federal government employees are exempt

Length

The length of time that new parents may receive Massachusetts PFMLA benefits varies by the reason. The maximum of 26 weeks applies when mom combines a personal health condition with a second qualifying reason. However, dads have less time.

Reason # Weeks
Baby bonding 12
Care of sick family member 12
Personal health condition 20
  • Fathers on paternity leave could take up to 12 weeks
  • Mothers on maternity leave could take up to 26 weeks
    • Her pregnancy disability combined with:
      • Baby bonding time
      • Care of a sick infant

Amount

The Massachusetts PFMLA amount will be different for every parent because the percentage of income replacement is progressive (low-income earners receive a higher rate of pay) and caps at $850 per month.

Annual Income Monthly Benefit Percent
$26,000 $400 80%
$52,000 $708 71%
$78,000 $850 57%
$104,000 $850 43%

Short-Term Disability

Buying short-term disability before conception is a great way to increase the amount and duration of paid maternity leave benefits. It will be too late to take advantage once mom is already pregnant.

The Massachusetts PFMLA program has many holes which a private short-term disability policy can fill.

  1. Women in higher income ranges can increase the monthly benefit amount up to 67% total between the two programs
  2. Mothers often need more than 20 weeks due to this typical trifecta of covered health conditions
    1. 2nd-trimester pregnancy disability (24)
    2. Recovery from labor and delivery (6 to 8)
    3. Postpartum medical complications (indefinite)

Unemployment

Collecting unemployment could be an option to continue income benefits if you lost your job during maternity or paternity leave for a “good cause reason.” Many new parents must remain absent from work past the expiration of their legal job rights.

Of course, you are eligible to file a claim only after you are physically able to resume working, available for duty, and actively seeking new employment.

Massachusetts codes section 401.380 defines good cause reasons to include the following paraphrased language.[2]

  • Provide care to an immediate family member during a crisis or emergency beyond your control (illness, injuries, health conditions)
  • Demands your immediate attention
  • Must be performed during scheduled work hours

MA Parental Leave Job Rights

The length of parental job rights will make a radical change beginning in 2021 when the Massachusetts Paid Family Medical Leave Act kicks fully into gear. In the meantime, two related statutes determine how long your time off will last – and could allow for unique outcomes in at least two cases.

The three laws provide for these three basics.

  1. Take job-protected time off without interference, restraint, or retaliation
  2. Have group health insurance maintained under the same terms and conditions
  3. Restored to the same or an equivalent position

FMLA

The federal Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) applies to new mothers and fathers across the country and has been in effect since 1993. FMLA provides twelve weeks of unpaid time off for eligible employees working for covered employers.

FMLA will become mostly irrelevant when PFMLA comes online because the new law covers more people for more extended periods. However, every rule has an exception.

FMLA PFMLA
Eligible Employee
  • At employer for 12 consecutive months
  • Logged at least 1,250 hours
  • Earned $4,700 in previous 12 months
Covered Employer
  • 50 + employees in a 75-mile radius
  • Any government employer
  • All public & private schools
  • Most W-2 employees*
  • Companies where 1099 independent contractors make up 50% + of workforce

*Federal government employees working in MA do not qualify under PFMLA but have plenty of other job rights. Also, self-employed individuals cannot interfere or retaliate against themselves. The legal safeguards are meaningless.

Parental Leave Act

The Massachusetts Parental Leave Act (MPLA) requires employers with six or more employees to provide eight weeks of unpaid time off per child and has been in effect since 2015.[3]

Since the MPLA address absences on a per-child basis, parents working for covered employers could extend their time off with the birth of twins, triplets, etc.

  • Twins: qualifies for 16
  • Triplets: qualifies for 24

The unusual in MPLA leads to more unique outcomes.

  • Fathers on paternity leave could take up to 24
  • Mothers covered under FMLA could take a combined 36 off because the two laws have mutually exclusive criteria
    • FMLA: 12 for her disability
    • MPLA: 24 for triplets

[1] Mass.gov Paid Family Leave Act

[2] Mass.gov 701.380: Good Cause Criteria

[3] Mass.gov Parental Leave Act