Community, Faith, and Labor Advocates Applaud Start of Most Comprehensive Paid Leave Program in the Nation

In News, Paid Leave, Press Releases by News Desk

Employee and Employer Contributions to State’s Paid Family and Medical Leave Program Begin Tuesday, Oct. 1

BOSTON – Massachusetts’ new Paid Family and Medical Leave (PFML) program will take a major step forward next week. On Tuesday, October 1, both workers and employers will begin making payroll contributions to fund the PFML program. Community, faith, and labor advocates from the Raise Up Massachusetts coalition, which led the campaign to pass the state’s paid leave law, applauded this milestone.

“No working person should have to choose between the job they need and caring for the family they love. Massachusetts workers are now one step closer to accessing job-protected paid time off from work to take care of themselves or a family member after a medical emergency or the birth or adoption of a new child,” said Deb Fastino, executive director of the Coalition for Social Justice and a co-chair of Raise Up Massachusetts. “Massachusetts now has the most comprehensive, worker-friendly paid leave program in the nation – that’s something to celebrate! We’re grateful to the Department of Family and Medical Leave and to members of the business community who have worked with us to ensure a smooth implementation of this important program that will benefit workers and businesses alike.”

Paid leave benefits will be funded by payroll contributions equal to 0.75% of a workers’ weekly wages, split effectively 50-50 between employer and employee contributions. That’s the most progressive cost-sharing system of any state paid leave program. After a 15-month period of collections to establish the state’s new Family and Medical Leave Trust Fund, workers will be able to take paid leave and receive wage replacement benefits from the Trust Fund beginning in January 2021.

“I’m so glad paid leave is finally becoming real for Massachusetts workers. It will be such a relief to know that if something happens to me or a member of my family, I’d be able to take the time I need to care for them, or myself, without risking job loss or financial disaster,” said Janice Guzman, a Personal Care Attendant from Worcester and member of 1199SEIU. “And it will be amazing for all the new parents who will be able to take time to bond with their new child. This is great news for workers everywhere in Massachusetts.”

Beginning October 1, workers will see a payroll deduction of up to 0.38% on their paycheck for PFML. The maximum amount of earnings subject to employee contributions is $132,900 annually for each covered individual.

Sample Deduction and Benefit Amounts for Workers at Various Income Categories

Annual Pay LevelWeekly ContributionAnnual ContributionWeekly Wage Replacement BenefitsPercent of Regular Weekly Income
$25,000 (a full-time worker making minimum wage)$1.81$95$384.6280%
$50,000$3.63$189$688.2872%
$75,000$5.45$238$850.0059%
$100,000$7.27$378$850.0044%

Most employers will also make a payroll contribution for PFML that is about the same amount as workers’ individual contribution. Employers with under 25 employees do not need to make their own contributions, but their workers’ contribution and benefits stay the same.

“The state’s new paid family and medical leave program is great for me as a small business owner,” said Diane Martin, owner of Dee’s Hot Dogs in New Bedford. “I couldn’t offer paid leave on my own, because paying both the employee taking leave and their temporary replacement for several months could be too much to afford all at once. Because the state program pools costs and risk together and pays the benefits of employees taking leave, it will let me give my employees the time off they need to support themselves and their families, leaving them healthier and more productive when they come back to work.”

Beginning on January 1, 2021, workers will be able to take up to 12 weeks of job-protected paid leave to care for a new child, up to 12 weeks to meet family needs arising from a family member’s active duty military service, up to 20 weeks to recover from a serious illness or injury, and up to 26 weeks to care for a seriously ill or injured service member. Beginning on July 1, 2021, workers will be able to take up to 12 weeks of job-protected paid leave to care for a seriously ill or injured family member.

Summary of Benefit Categories, Length of Benefits, and Start Dates

Benefits CategoryCare for a new child (birth, adoption, or fostering)Care for the family needs of an active duty service memberCare for a serious personal illness or injuryCare for a seriously ill or injured service memberCare for a seriously ill or injured family member
Weeks of Benefits AvailableUp to 12 weeksUp to 12 weeksUp to 20 weeksUp to 26 weeksUp to 12 weeks
Start DateJanuary 2021January 2021January 2021January 2021July 2021

“This is a big milestone, especially for parents who are forced to make an unfair choice between taking home a paycheck or taking care of their family,” said Imari Paris Jeffries, executive director of Parenting Journey. “As a father and veteran, I remember the military didn’t allow for the essential time needed at home after my first child was born. PFML can be utilized to best suit the needs of individual families during critical moments, including welcoming a newborn, caring for an aging parent or recovering from an injury. Parents know what is best for their families and this is a first step towards implementing equitable policy that allows all families to thrive.”

Workers taking paid leave will receive wage replacement benefits from the new Family and Medical Leave Trust Fund calculated as a percentage of their regular income, up to a maximum of $850 per week. Workers can estimate the benefits they will receive here. The program uses a progressive wage replacement system that recognizes the particular challenges lower-wage workers face by replacing a substantial share of their lost income, while still ensuring meaningful benefits for all workers. The law also prohibits employer retaliation against workers who take time off under its conditions.

In 2017 and 2018, the Raise Up Massachusetts coalition of community organizations, religious groups, and labor unions collected more than 160,000 signatures to qualify a paid family and medical leave question for the ballot, without using paid signature gathering companies. In June 2018, the Legislature passed, and Governor Baker signed, a bill creating a paid family and medical leave program in Massachusetts, avoiding the need for the ballot question.

“Massachusetts’ paid family and medical leave program is a major achievement for working families, and a big part of the Raise Up Massachusetts coalition’s ongoing work to build an economy that invests in families, gives everyone the opportunity to succeed, and creates broadly shared prosperity,” said Cindy Rowe, Executive Director of the Jewish Alliance for Law and Social Action (JALSA). “We’re thrilled to be one step closer to paid leave benefits becoming available, and look forward to working with partners across the state to ensure that every worker knows about their ability to take paid leave starting in 2021.”

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Raise Up Massachusetts is a coalition of community organizations, religious groups, and labor unions committed to building an economy that invests in families, gives everyone the opportunity to succeed, and creates broadly shared prosperity. Since our coalition came together in 2013, we have nearly doubled wages for hundreds of thousands of working people by winning two increases in the state’s minimum wage, won best-in-the-nation earned sick time and paid family and medical leave benefits for workers and their families, led the campaign for the Fair Share Amendment to invest in transportation and public education, and started to build an economy that works for all of us, not just those at the top. Learn more at raiseupma.org.