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Massachusetts Now Has the Most Generous Paid Family Leave in the US

It’s even better than Washington State’s.
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By Laurie Ulster, Contributing Writer
Published July 3, 2018
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Image: Amy Aldrete

Apparently, we can all get along—at least when it comes to making things better for new parents. Massachusetts Republicans and Democrats teamed up to pass the most generous paid family leave law in the country, signed by Governor Charlie Baker on June 28.

Democratic Senator Jason Lewis called it a “landmark victory for working families in Massachusetts,” adding, ““finally, workers, especially low wage workers, won’t have to choose between getting a paycheck and having to take time off of work to bond with a newborn baby or take care of an ill family member.”

This is a big improvement over the 1993 federal Family and Medical Leave Act, which only offers 12 weeks off, doesn’t guarantee pay and won’t be of any use to you if your company has fewer than 50 employees.

Here are the details on the new policy, which goes into effect in 2021:

WHAT IT OFFERS

  • An initial 12 weeks off, paid, to care for a newborn or family member.
  • Up to 26 weeks of paid leave for moms with medical complications due to pregnancy.

WHO IT COVERS

  • Birth parents
  • Foster parents
  • Adoptive parents
  • Those who need to care for an ill family members, including: parents, grandparents, domestic partners, siblings and parents-in-law
  • Anyone dealing with issues stemming from a family member’s military deployment or injury
  • Anyone who meets the eligibility for unemployment benefits, aka employees who have earned at least $4,700 during the last four completed calendar quarters—that includes former employees and independent contractors

HOW IT WORKS

The Family and Employment Security Trust Fund–a state fund–administers the benefits, which are financed by payroll contributions split between employer and employee. Those contributions will be equal to 0.63 percent of a worker’s weekly wage.

The employer serves as the middle-person between the state and the employee, as they’ll handle the payments that finance the fund, process claims and contest claims if necessary.

The pay will be based on a percentage of a person’s salary, with a cap of $850 a week, which will be adjusted over time.

Your job is protected: Your employer has to restore you to your original job or a position equivalent to it once you head back to work. That includes your status at the time you left, as well as your pay, employment benefits, length of service credit and seniority.

While on leave, you’re entitled to whatever health insurance benefits you had, and your leave doesn’t affect your right to accrue vacation time, sick leave, bonuses, length of service credit or promotions.

LIMITATIONS

• You won’t be able to use more than 12 weeks of family leave in one benefit year, unless you’re caring for a covered servicemember–then you can have up to 26. (A benefit year is the 52-week period starting on the Sunday before the first day you take your family or medical leave.)

• You can’t use more than 20 weeks of medical leave in one benefit year.

• You can combine leave, as long as it doesn’t add up to more than 26 weeks in one benefit year.

So how does this all stack up against paid family leave policies in other states? It’s pretty close to laws in Washington State, which was previously claiming to have the most progressive paid leave law across the US. But Washington’s paid leave for pregnancy-related medical complications only goes up to 18 weeks. Their payout, however, is better: Those who earn less than $1,082 a week will get 90 percent of their pay while on leave. Higher-income workers get 50 percent, with a cap of $1,000 a week.

New York, California, New Jersey and Rhode Island also have paid family leave policies in place—see how they compare.

Any other states who want to compete for the title of “most generous paid family leave” are welcome to join the party!

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