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Extension to Massachusetts Paid Family and Medical Leave Deadlines & Public Hearing Dates Announced by Department

By Skoler, Abbott & Presser, P.C.

May 8, 2019

Massachusetts:

The Department of Family and Medical Leave (DFML) has recently announced several important changes and provided additional information regarding the Paid Family and Medical Leave Law (PFML), which goes into effect July 1, 2019.  It also has announced Public Hearing dates for the draft regulations.

Deadline for Notice to Employees Extended to June 30, 2019

Employers are required to provide notice to employees about PFML.  There are two separate notice forms required:  one is the Paid Family and Medical Leave mandatory workplace poster that provides a general notice of benefits available under the law; the other is a written notice distributed to each employee and, in some cases, independent contractors.

The mandatory workplace poster must be available in English and each language which is the primary language of at least five individuals in your workforce if the DFML has published a translation of the notice in that language.

The written notice distributed to each employee must be provided in the primary language of each employee.  The notice may be provided electronically if it includes the opportunity for the employee to acknowledge or decline receipt of the information.  The deadline for providing that notice has changed from May 31 to June 30, 2019.  The written notice must provide specific information.  DFML has published the poster and written notice in thirteen different languages.

Questions about Tax Treatment of PFML Contributions

Employers must begin making contributions to the state to cover PFML on July 1, 2019 and uncertainty remains regarding the tax treatment of those contributions.  As a result, the DFML has asked the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) for guidance and recently provided an update to employers.

While the DFML anticipates that employees’ contributions should be withheld from after-tax wages, it’s awaiting the IRS’ guidance before making a final determination.  It’s unclear when this guidance might be issued.  If no guidance is issued by July 1, you should check with your tax advisor for a recommendation on the PFML’s tax-related implications.

Regardless of the notice extensions and lack of definitive guidance about tax issues, contributions to PFML begin on July 1, 2019.

Application for Private Plan Exemption Extended to September 20, 2019

Employers who have paid leave plans that offer benefits equal to or more generous than those provided under the PFML may obtain an exemption from making contributions by applying to the DFML.  If you haven’t given a lot of thought about private plan options, you will have more time to do so.  The deadline for filing for a private plan exemption has been extended from June 30 to September 20, 2019 for the first quarter.  After that, applications will continue to be accepted on a rolling basis and, if approved, will be applicable beginning the following quarter.  More information on exemptions can be found here.  Employers who apply for an exemption that is not approved will be responsible for making contributions for the first quarter (July 1-September 30) by October 31, 2019.

State Announced Dates for Regulatory Hearings

The state has also formally announced that it will hold two public regulatory hearings in May.  The first will be May 23 from 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. in Holyoke and the other is May 24 from 1:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. in Boston.

We will be discussing PFML and other hot topics in depth at our 2019 Labor and Employment Law Conference.  If you are interested in attending, check out the full agenda and register here.

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