Do you know the differences between the MA PFMLA and the Federal FMLA?

September 8, 2019

The Massachusetts PFMLA deadlines are fast approaching. Do you know the differences between the MA PFMLA and the Federal FMLA? Since its enactment in 1993, the Family and Medical Leave Act has afforded job protection to millions of American workers. FMLA leave allows covered employees to take unpaid time off to tend to new children, family members’ health conditions and their own health conditions. Considering the FMLA applies to all private American employers with 50 or more employees, as well as to public agencies and private or public elementary or secondary schools, a huge number of American workers are entitled to FMLA leave. 

So Massachusetts employers have long been familiar with the FMLA’s protections. The new statewide Paid Family and Medical Leave program is a whole new ballgame. It offers similar protections to the FMLA, but requires more work on the employer’s part. Massachusetts employers must be ready for those new responsibilities starting on October 1st. Make sure you know the differences between these programs before that day arrives.

PFML vs MA FMLA: Qualifying for Benefits

A W-2 employee who works for a Massachusetts business or a government agency will be eligible for PFML benefits. Independent contractors would be eligible if they work for a business whose workforce is at least 50 percent independent contractors. Self-employed workers in Massachusetts may also opt into the PFML program. Covered individuals (those who are eligible for benefits) must have earned at least $4,700 in the previous 12 months to take paid leave under PFML.

To qualify for FMLA leave, an employee must have worked at least 1,250 hours for the employer during the 12-month period before their leave begins, and must have worked for the employer for at least 12 months total. The 12 months don’t have to be consecutive. An employee who works for you six months out of the year would be eligible for FMLA leave after two years, assuming the other eligibility conditions are met. 

Massachusetts PFMLA


There’s a geographic element to FMLA eligibility too. In order for a worker to take FMLA leave, the employer must employ at least 50 people within 75 miles of the worker’s site. So if you have 100 employees but they’re spread out across several states, some or all of your employees may be ineligible for FMLA leave. 

Note that a Massachusetts employer may opt out of the PFML program if it already offers employees a paid leave program of equal or greater generosity to PFML. An employee may not opt out of the FMLA. 

PFML vs FMLA: What it Provides

Massachusetts PFML and the FMLA have similar eligibility requirements that covered individuals must meet to qualify for leave.

 Under PFML, in a 12-month period a covered individual may take:

  •   Up to 20 weeks of paid medical leave to address their own serious medical condition.
  •   Up to 12 weeks of paid family leave, which can be used to care for a sick or injured relative, bond with a child during their first 12 months together, or handle circumstances related to a close family member being called to active duty.
  •   Up to 26 weeks a year of paid family leave to care for a family member who gets sick or injured while working as a covered service member.

Leave under PFML is capped at 26 weeks total per benefit year.

 By contrast, under the FMLA, in a 12-month period, an eligible employee may take:

  •   Up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to care for a child during their first 12 months together; to care for a seriously sick or injured child, parent or spouse; to address their own serious health condition; or to take care of any demands stemming from a close family member being on active duty in the military.
  •   Up to 26 weeks of unpaid leave to care for a close family member who gets seriously sick or injured while on active duty.

 PFML vs FMLA: Paying for Employee Leave

An employee’s leave under Massachusetts PFML is, of course, paid. How an employee’s leave is funded depends in part on the employer. The required contribution for a covered individual is 0.75% of the worker’s gross wages. (For 2020, that breaks down as 0.62% for medical leave and 0.13% for family leave.) If the employer has 25 or more covered individuals, it’s responsible for 60% of each individual’s medical leave contribution. An employer with fewer than 25 covered individuals is not responsible for any portion of the medical leave contribution. Employers are never responsible for the family leave contribution. Any portion of a covered individual’s contributions not covered by the employer should be deducted from their wages. 

FMLA leave is unpaid, but an employee may take it concurrently with another type of accrued paid leave like paid vacation leave or sick leave. The employee may request this, or the employer may require it.

PFML vs FMLA: The Employer’s Responsibility

Starting on October 1, 2019, Massachusetts employers are responsible for deducting employees’ PFML contributions from payroll and remitting them to the Department of Family Medical Leave using the Department of Revenue’s MassTaxConnect. All Massachusetts employers have this obligation, whether or not they’re required to pay a share of employees’ contributions.

PFML also has notification requirements. Employers must display the Paid Family and Medical Leave poster; give employees written notice about PFML benefits, contributions and protections; and request written confirmation from all employees that they’ve received that information.

The biggest employer requirement under FMLA is to protect the absent worker’s job and to continue providing health and other benefits during the leave. Both laws prevent employers from retaliating against employees for taking leave and from discriminating against employees for taking leave.

Still have questions about Massachusetts PFML? Don’t miss our free webinar Mass Paid Family and Medical Leave for Procrastinators on Tuesday, September 17 at 12:00 PM EST. Have questions unique to your business? Contact us today.

The information provided in this article does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice; instead, all information is for general informational purposes only.  Information in this article may not constitute the most up-to-date legal or other information. This article contains links to other third-party websites

provided only for the convenience of the reader.

Compare Plans View Demo Self Assessment Subscribe to Insights