Massachusetts is in the midst of passing a bill on the prominent issue of paid family and medical leave within the state. The act of legislation has been titled “An Act Establishing a Paid Family Leave and Medical Program.” Though it was passed by the Senate last year, it was passed on to the House and fell stagnant last July. As citizens worry about having to choose between their job and caring for a sick family member or a new child, the bill has been placed back on the table in 2017, with two competing bills under consideration.
According to grassroots organization Raise Up Massachusetts, 40% of workers in the state of Massachusetts, or 1.2 million employees, are not guaranteed paid leave under the federal unpaid leave law because they work for companies with fewer than 50 employees. Ideally, a new state program would assuage workers’ fears and allow them to take more leave time for family care or emergencies, as well as disability leaves for their personal health. If passed, this paid family and medical leave law will ensure women and families of all races, backgrounds, and income levels can care for themselves and their families without feeling the pressure to choose between their job or their loved ones.
How would this bill solve the issues of these unprotected Massachusetts workers? The proposed legislation would vastly expand employee paid time off for qualifying situations:
- family emergency
- health concerns and conditions of either the employee or a family member
- following the birth, adoption or foster care of a child
Within the proposed legislation in Massachusetts, a qualified employee could be eligible for a maximum of 26 weeks leave in a benefit year for that employee’s own health condition and up to 12 weeks leave in a benefit year for other protected reasons. The pay of the newly established paid leave would then be decided from a “benefits schedule” implemented by the Commonwealth, with the current bills setting various pay limits per week.
If the bill passes, Massachusetts will be one of the first states to implement a policy on paid family and medical leave. California, New Jersey, and Rhode Island currently offer paid family leave through funds acquired via an employee payroll tax.
The state of New York will also be providing paid family leave to eligible employees. Effective on January 1st, 2018, the official name of the law is the New York Paid Family Leave Law (NYPFL). On July 1st, 2017, New York employers may commence withholding from employee paychecks to fund the program. If employers within the state plan to begin implementing these payroll deductions, they should talk to their payroll providers in order to ensure that appropriate processes are set in place.
Bills focused around the issue of paid family and medical leave in Massachusetts have come before the Legislature for years. However, this year the legislation seems to be a top priority of both lawmakers and the public alike.