Governor Signs Bill Converting Maternity Leave to Parental Leave

On his way out the door this week, Governor Patrick signed a number of bills that had been passed by the Massachusetts legislature, including a significant amendment to Mass. Gen. L. Ch. 149, section 105D, formerly known as the Massachusetts Maternity Leave Act. This bill effectively converts the Commonwealth’s Maternity Leave into Parental Leave (i.e., available to both men and women), with a number of significant provisions, including the following:

  • Clarifies that parental leave is available after three months of employment, even if the employer’s probationary period is longer;
  • Restricts the total amount of leave for two parents who are both employed by the same employer to a total of eight weeks;
  • Allows an employee to provide less than two weeks’ notice of the employee’s intent to take leave or return from leave, if the delay is beyond the employee’s control;
  • If the employee wants to take more than the eight weeks of statutorily mandated leave, and the employer is not going to hold the employee’s job beyond the eight weeks period, the employer must inform the employee in writing before the start of the leave and prior to any extension of the leave that taking longer than eight weeks of leave will result in the denial of reinstatement or loss of other rights and benefits;
  • Mandates that employers provide the same benefits to employees on Parental Leave as are provided to other employees on leaves of absence. This could mean that if the employer is a covered employer under the Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”), it will be required to provide health insurance benefits to employees on Parental Leave, even if they are not FMLA eligible; and
  • Expands the protections under Mass. Gen. L. ch. 151B to cover employees who take Parental Leave.

Employers are required to post a notice with their other labor posters explaining this new leave. The Parental Leave Law is effective beginning 90 days after the Governor’s signature. That means that employers have until April 7, 2015, to post notices and revise their Maternity Leave Policies and practices to reflect these changes. For additional information, contact any of the attorneys at Skoler, Abbott & Presser, P.C.

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