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New Minimum Wage and Paid Family and Medical Leave

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On January 1, 2021, the state minimum wage will increase to $13.50 per hour. The minimum base wage for tipped employees will increase to $5.55 per hour.

The rate of premium pay (applicable to many retail employees) for working on Sunday, Memorial Day, Juneteenth, Independence Day, and Labor Day, will be reduced to 1.2 times an employee’s regular rate of pay. Premium pay for working on New Year’s Day, Columbus Day, and Veterans Day, however, remains at 1.5 times the employee’s regular rate.

Employees in Massachusetts can begin to take Paid Family and Medical Leave (PFML) starting January 1, 2021. PFML includes partial wage replacement, job protection, and continuation of employment benefits. PFML is funded by a state tax, which began on October 1, 2019, and is administered by the Department of Family and Medical Leave. Employers are responsible for remitting the premiums but are not responsible for paying out PFML benefits directly to employees.

PFML applies to most employers and employees in Massachusetts; generally, only workers who are exempt from state unemployment insurance are exempt from PFML.

The state has a website with FAQs, action items, videos, and other resources for employers. 

Employee Eligibility
The state will determine an employee’s eligibility when they apply. It is not the responsibility of the employer to determine if someone is eligible. That said, when speaking with employees about their job-protection benefits, it may be helpful to know who is or not likely to qualify.

To be eligible for PFML, an employee must have:

  • Earned $5,100 during the last 4 completed calendar quarters (from any combination of Massachusetts employers), and at least 30 times more than the amount they would be eligible to get each week from PFML; and
  • Paid the full 0.75% contribution rate for both family and medical leave for at least 2 of their last 4 completed calendar quarters before claiming benefits.
Amount and Reasons for Leave
Eligible employees may take up to 12 weeks of family leave, up to 20 weeks of medical leave, or up to 26 weeks of some combination of family and medical leave.

Paid family leave may be taken to:
  • Bond with a newborn child
  • Bond with a child after adoption or foster care placement
  • Manage family affairs when a family member is on active duty in the armed forces
  • Care for a family member who has a serious health condition (starting July 1, 2021)
Paid medical leave may be taken for an employee's own serious health condition.

PFML can run concurrently with other state and federal family and medical leaves, such as the federal Family and Medical Leave Act. PFML provides job protection and requires that you continue the employee’s health insurance benefits, if any, on the same terms as though they had continued to work during their leave.

The benefit amount will be equal to 80% of an employee’s weekly wage that is 50% or less of the state average weekly wage (SAWW), plus 50% of their weekly wages above 50% of the SAWW (if any). In 2021 benefits are capped at $850 per week. Employers are not responsible for determining how much an employee is entitled to when taking PFML—the state will determine how much an employee will receive based on their past earnings and the current SAWW.

Notice to Employees
If you haven’t already notified current employees about PFML, you should do so immediately. New employees must be notified within 30 days. The notice must be written in the employee's primary language. Employers are also required to obtain a written acknowledgment from each employee that they received the notice.

The Department of Family and Medical Leave offers a template notice and acknowledgment. Alternatively, employers may create their own form. 

Required Poster
Employers must display a poster about PFML in English. If five or more of your employees primarily speak a shared language other than English, you must also post a version in that language if it is available here.  

For more information about PFML, search for PFML on the HR Support Center or visit the state’s website

Payright Payroll Services, Inc.
468 Great Road
Acton, MA 1720

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