As previously reported in our Employment Law Spotlight blog last summer, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker signed a comprehensive bill requiring employers in the state to provide workers with paid family and medical leave (PFML). As Massachusetts employers should know by now, beginning in 2021, the PFML will provide temporary income replacement to eligible workers who are welcoming a new child into their family, dealing with a serious illness or injury, caring for an ailing relative, or dealing with complications resulting from the military deployment of a family member. The program is funded by payrollbased contributions from employers, employees, and certain contract workers.
Although employees will not be entitled to take leave under the new law until 2021, employers face upcoming deadlines starting well before that. Notably, the PFML will be regulated by the Department of Family and Medical Leave (DFML) and covers all Massachusetts employers, regardless of size. Several of the deadlines that were initially set by the DFML have been recently delayed. Below is a brief summary of the upcoming deadlines as they currently exist.
As an initial matter, in order to comply with the PFML, all Massachusetts employers must post the PFML poster. The poster is provided by the DFML, and must be displayed in English and each language which is the primary language of five or more individuals in your workforce, if these translations are available from the DFML.
In addition, by September 30, 2019, employers must provide personal written notice of PFML benefits, contribution rates and other provisions as outlined in the law, in paper or electronic form, to current employees and covered 1099 independent contractors. The DFML has made template notices available, including some translated versions, since it must be written in the employee's/contractor's primary language. Employers must issue a PFML notice in the employee's/contractor's primary language within 30 days of their first day of employment/service. The notice must include the opportunity for workers to acknowledge receipt or decline to acknowledge receipt of the information. In the event that an employee or independent contractor fails to acknowledge receipt, the DFML will consider the employer to have fulfilled its notice obligation as long as it can establish that the notice and opportunity to decline or acknowledge receipt was provided to the entire workforce. Check the DFML website at mass.gov/pfml in the coming days/ weeks for updated notices to provide to your workforce.
(Please note that if you already provided written notices to your workforce prior to the delay announcement, you will need to provide them with a rate update sheet explaining the new dates and contribution rates. This sheet doesn't have to be signed by the covered individual but you'll need to keep a record of its distribution.)
Shortly thereafter, by October 1, 2019, employers must also make payroll withholdings based on contribution rates to fund the program. In other words, this date now marks the beginning of the first quarter of payroll and wage withholdings. By this date, employers should also start preparing for quarterly reporting, of gross wages or other payments to all Massachusetts W-2 employees and Massachusetts 1099-MISC contract workers.
And employers will now have until December 20, 2019 to apply for an exemption that will excuse them from the obligation to remit contributions for the full period commencing with the October 1 start date. This means that, by December 20, 2019, employers who already provide paid family leave benefits that are at least as generous as those required under the PFML law may apply to the Department for an exemption from making PFML contributions. However, the October 1 withholding deadline still applies, and this application deadline impacts the contribution requirements only if the application is approved.
Finally, employers will now have until January 2020 to complete quarterly filings and submit contributions for the previous calendar quarter (October - December) through MassTaxConnect.
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