Massachusetts paid family and medical leave update

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By Carly Fallon, Director of Human Resources at CheckWriters
Massachusetts private employers and their HR teams are trying their best to obtain information and prepare, as Massachusetts joins a short (but growing) list of states providing employees with paid family and medical leave benefits on January 1, 2021. While this date may not seem to be looming around the corner, the effective date for the new payroll tax that will be funding these benefits is July 1 of 2019. Without further clarity promised until the proposed regulations are released (no later than March 31, 2019), HR pros and business owners are looking for all options and avenues available to illuminate this program and the responsibilities that must be met to comply.
Just last week, the Department of Family and Medical Leave (DFML) published two separate FAQ sets for employers and employees.
While the Employer portion reiterated much of the info we already knew, the questions are organized and the answers are clear and direct; delivering some salvation to folks who have found all of the different media updates and summaries simply overwhelming and far too granular to comprehend. Helpful FAQs for employers can be found here >
The guidance for employees includes information on eligibility requirements and a summary of the program’s benefits. This is a great tool for HR Pros to review as well - it helps delineate what is best to communicate to employees who have questions, and it provides hints of the administrative burden that may impact HR departments when the program contributions begin. You can find the employee FAQs here >
One particular caveat that has HR folks buzzing is the private plan option. This would potentially allow employers to “opt out” of the program, and alternatively meet their obligations by implementing a private benefit plan for their employees that is minimally inclusive of (or more generous than) the same benefits, rights, and protections offered by the DFML program. These plans will be subject to an annual review and approval by DFML to determine if an organization may be exempt from making contributions and complying. The big questions now surround the availability and cost of such a plan, as well as whether or not the plan can be instituted prior to the July 1, 2019 date for an immediate exemption.
Though more substantive data is planned to be published by March 31, CheckWriters is offering Massachusetts clients as much support as possible through the murkiness of these regulations, as we have worked with clients in other states who previously have been down this road. Our HR and Benefits Consultants are available to connect and discuss the info available now, and are prepared to dive in and analyze the formal details being released in early 2019.
Carly Fallon has been a strategic partner in HR for over ten years, joining CheckWriters in 2015 as Director of Human Resources. Carly specializes in employe relations, training and development, compensation and benefits, and compliance.

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