NEW UPDATE: Massachusetts Announces Three-month MA PFML Program Delay
On June 14, 2019, the Department of Family and Medical Leave announced an update regarding a three-month delay to the PFML program which includes changes to important deadlines and contribution rates.
- Contribution Withholdings now required to start October 1, 2019 (previously July 1, 2019)
- Contribution Rate Change from 0.63% to 0.75% of employee’s qualifying earnings, to offset the 3-month program delay
- Timeline Extended for Required Employee Notices to September 30, 2019 (previously June 30, 2019)
- Timeline Extended for Exemption Application to December 20, 2019 (previously September 20, 2019)
- Final PFML Regulations Effective July 1, 2019 posted on at mass.gov/pfml under the title of 458 CMR 2.00 DEPARTMENT OF FAMILY AND MEDICAL LEAVE
In 2018, Massachusetts signed into law the Massachusetts Paid Family and Medical Leave (MA PFML) Act, a statute that provides paid family and medical leave benefits to workers. Benefits through the program will begin on January 1, 2021, while deductions to fund the state-run program begin October 1, 2019 (see guidance below on Private Plan Exemption Process). Download our MA PFML Fact Sheet (PDF) to view details.
What Employers Should Know
Post a Workplace PFML Poster
On April 17, 2019, the Massachusetts Department of Family and Medical Leave released its required workplace poster and employee notices to inform employees about their rights and responsibilities under the MA PFML Act.
The poster includes key implementation dates to inform employees that payroll deductions to fund PFML benefits will begin on October 1, 2019 (extended from July 1, 2019), with benefits beginning on January 1, 2021 and July 1, 2021. The poster also outlines weekly benefits, job protection, anti-discrimination and retaliation protection, and private plans.
All Massachusetts employers must display this approved poster in a conspicuous workplace location where it may be easily read. For employers who have five or more individuals whose primary language is not English, translated posters in the applicable language(s) must be displayed as well. Currently, the Department offers online posters in Arabic, Chinese, French, Haitian Creole, Italian, Khmer, Korean, Lao, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, and Vietnamese.
Provide Notice of PFML to Employees
Massachusetts employers must also provide individual written PFML notices to their current workforce by September 30, 2019 (extended from June 30, 2019), and to all newly hired employees thereafter (within 30 days of the first date of employment). The notice may be provided electronically and must be written in the employee’s primary language. Employers must also implement a process to allow each employee to acknowledge receipt or decline to acknowledge receipt of the notice, either in paper or electronic form.
Written notice to employees (W-2 workers) must include:
- An explanation of the availability of PFML benefits;
- Employee and employer contribution amounts and obligations;
- Employer’s name, mailing address, and ID number (as assigned by the Department);
- Instructions on how to file a claim for PFML benefits; and
- The Department’s mailing address, email address and telephone number.
- Sample notices in English and other languages are available on the Department’s website.
Provide PFML Notices to Contractors
Employers also must also provide written notice about the MA PFML to contract workers (1099-MISC) by September 30, 2019 (extended from June 30, 2019). Like the notice to employees, the notice to contractors must be written in the contractor’s primary language and employers must obtain a written statement from the contractor acknowledging receipt or denial of acknowledgment of receipt of the notice. Sample notices for use with contractors are also provided on the Department’s website in multiple languages.
Employers who fail to provide the required notifications face significant fines on a per-employee/worker basis. For a first violation, the fine is $50 per employee or contractor. Second violations will result in fines of $300 per employee or contractor.
Private Plan Exemption Process Begins on April 29, 2019
Employers have the option to file for an exemption from the state-run program administered by the Department of Family and Medical Leave (the “Department of FML”) and making contributions to the Department of FML with MassTaxConnect, and instead, submitting an employer voluntary plan (a private insurer plan or self-funded plan) for approval. Additional information on the application process can be found on MA PFML webpage, Exemptions from Paid Family and Medical Leave for Private Plans.
The Department’s current guidance requires that exemptions for private plans must be approved in the quarter prior to the quarter in which they will go into effect. For Quarter 1 only, however, the deadline to file for a private plan exemption that will be in effect for first quarter contributions for paid family and medical leave has been moved from extended to December 20, 2019 from the prior deadline of September 20, 2019. This will allow employers additional time to contemplate private plan options. Going forward, the Department will continue to accept applications on a rolling basis, but applications must be approved in the quarter prior to the quarter in which they go into effect.
What Employers Need to Do
Massachusetts employers should complete the following steps:
- Download the MA PFML workplace poster in English and any other languages applicable to their workforce and post them at their worksites in conspicuous places by September 30, 2019.
- Send out individual written notices to all current employees and 1099 contractors in each worker’s primary language no later than September 30, 2019 (extended from June 30).
- Retain the signed acknowledgment-of-receipt forms.
- Update onboarding documentation to include the written MA PFML notice so that new hires receive the required PFML information within 30 days of hire.
- Review MA paid leave benefit requirements and contemplate whether they wish to pursue a private plan offering and apply for an exemption from making contributions by the December 20, 2019 deadline OR if they intend to provide the required coverage through the MA PFML state program.
- Educate and inform their respective payroll department/ payroll vendor or their coverage decision. If maintaining state coverage, advise payroll department/vendor to initiate the employee payroll withholdings for PFML contributions starting October 1. If approved for private plan exemption, advise payroll department/vendor accordingly, that the payroll withholdings for PFML contributions will not be required until the plan effective date of 01/01/2021.
What Guardian is Doing
Guardian is committed to offering a private plan option to assist employers in meeting their obligation to provide Massachusetts’ state mandated PFML coverage. Our product offering will provide a fully insured product compliant with MA PFML law for employers with 25 or more MA covered individuals. We will begin accepting quote requests starting in early August 2019. Please consult your Guardian Sales Consultant for quoting requirements and additional information concerning a MA PFML private plan option through Guardian.