The Massachusetts Department of Family and Medical Leave (DFML) has continued to issue guidance and clarifications regarding the Massachusetts Paid Family and Medical Leave Act (PFML) since the law went into effect in January 2021. Below is a summary of the latest guidance.
Average Weekly Wage
The average weekly wage (AWW) for 2022 will be $1,694.24. This is an increase from the prior AWW of $1,487.78.
Maximum Benefit Amount
The maximum weekly PFML benefit amount for 2022 will be $1,084.31. This is an increase from the previous maximum amount of $850 per week.
As of January 1, 2022, the overall contribution rate for employers with 25 or more covered individuals will decrease from .75 percent of eligible wages to .68 percent.
The DFML has updated the PFML workplace poster and the individual worker notices to reflect the updated rates effective in 2022 as follows:
Employers may create their own worker notices as long as the notices include the following information as specified by the DFML:
- “An explanation of the availability of family and medical leave benefits
- The employee’s contribution amount and obligations
- The employer’s contribution amount and obligations
- The employer’s name and mailing address
- The employer identification number assigned by DFML ([i.e., the Federal Employer Identification Number])
- Instructions on how to file a claim for family and medical leave benefits
- The mailing address, email address, and telephone number of DFML”
Note that for 2022, employers are not required to reissue these notices to existing employees. These updated notices must be distributed to new employees who begin work on January 1, 2022, or later.
Applications for Leave
The DFML continues to work on increased guidance and functionality for its online application process. Most recently, it has announced that employer leave administrators who review worker applications may search, sort, and organize applications. Workers may now also check their application status through the DFML online system.
Updated Health Forms
The DFML updated its certification of a serious health condition form to be completed by both workers and their medical providers for workers requesting leave for their own serious health conditions. The DFML has also created a separate form to be used when a worker applies for leave to care for a family member with a serious health condition.
As a reminder, medical leave that a worker takes prior to or following pregnancy (or that is related to the pregnancy) does not run concurrently with the worker’s available bonding leave. This is different from coverage under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), possibly providing for substantially longer leave under the PFML.
Fiscal Year 2021 Report
As required by law, the DFML publishes an annual report containing a summary of applications received. The first report covers January 1, 2021, to June 30, 2021. (It does not include data for those employers that offer workers PFML under an exempt private plan.) The report includes the following notable data points:
- In the first six months of fiscal year 2021, the DFML approved 43,440 applications.
- Of those applications, roughly 58 percent were for medical leave and roughly 42 percent were for family leave to bond with a child.
- Just under 10,000 applications were denied—roughly 23 percent of all applications. The most common reason for denial was insufficient or noncompliant documentation submitted by the applicant.
- The largest number of applicants for PFML benefits were individuals in their 30s, with more than twice as many applicants as those in the next largest group, applicants in their 20s (all cohorts grouped by decades).
- More than twice as many women applied for PFML benefits than men.
- The average duration of a leave was 53 days.
- The DFML paid out a total of $167,915,781.01 in family and medical leave benefits in FY 2021.
Ogletree Deakins’ Leaves of Absence / Reasonable Accommodation Practice Group will continue to monitor and report on developments with respect to the PFML program and will post updates on the Leaves of Absence and Massachusetts blogs as additional information becomes available. Important information for employers is also available via the firm’s webinar and podcast programs.